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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  August 2, 2012 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. brown: i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown: i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business for up to 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown: thank you. i rise to discuss the troubling state of our financial system in the unfinished business of wall street reform. i'm here to talk about specifically about too big to fail banks. decades of reregulation, louisianay fair regulations -- laissez faire helped them grow from 18% of gross domestic product only 25 years ago to 68%
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to 2009. so 18% in the 1990's to 68% in 2009. we know what happened next. during the financial crisis these megabanks collected $1.2 trillion -- just to understand that figure, if we can, $1.2 trillion is 1,200 billion dollars. and a billion dollars is a thousand million dollars. to think these six megabanks collected $1.2 trillion in federal taxpayer funded support from the treasury, from the fdic, from the federal reserve. two years after we passed the dodd-frank wall street reform act, i supported it because it took important steps, i'm concerned we're not seeing reform nearly sufficient enough reform in the financial sector. as we uncover more and more risky, fraudulent, illegal activities, it seems far too
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clear and the american people absolutely see this and believe this, that wall street is back to business as usual. since 2010, we've learned about a number of things. i'm just going to rattle off seven or eight significant, serious problems, some illegal, some accusations, some alleging significant systemic problems, all troubling issues that have happened just in the last couple years. investor lawsuits and s.e.c. enforcement actions over mortgage backed securities. municipalities being sold overpriced credit derivatives, bankrupting some of those municipalities. think of the hardship that causes in those communities. the forging of foreclosure documents and mortgage securities legal documents by five of the nation's largest servicers, leading to $25 billion in penalties. $25 billion in penalties for these servicers, forging the
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foreclosure documents and mortgage security legal documents. $25 billion in penalties. the nation's largest bank halting all consumer debt collection lawsuits due to concerns about poorly maintained and inaccurate paperwork. the nation's largest bank losing $5.8 billion so far -- so far -- on large complex tariff difference -- derivative trades the regulators either missed or didn't understand or ignored. suspicions at 16 global banks including the three largest u.s. banks manipulated libor, the london interbank overnight rate, used as a bench mash mark for student loans and even derivatives, that affect almost everybody in our country. a criminal bid -- this is a part of this list -- a criminal
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bid rigging trial exposing illegal practices by wall street banks and arranging bids so banks could underway by the way, for municipal bonds. former employees of the nation's largest bank alleging the company urged them to steer clients to their own mutual funds because theive procedure profit -- they were more profitable to the bank even though they paid lower returns than other 23u7bdz while their clients presumably were trusting them to act in their clients' best interests. the f.e.c. investing whether the banks manipulated prices on the energy markets forcing consumer to pay more. a settlement by the nation's fourth largest bank for discriminatory practices in communities including cleveland and many others cities. huang through these neighborhoods and see what this, what rigging of other
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behavior on servicers' dysfunction or illegal activities have done no these communities and to these families. and imagine for a moment, put the numbers aside in the political speech aside and imagine for a moment you're a parent with a 12- and 13-year-old daughter and you've got to sit down and say sorry, honey, dad lost his job a few months ago, now we're losing our home, where are we going to move, i don't know, what school am i going to go to, i don't know yet. imagine the personal hurt and hardship to a whole lot of families in cleveland and mansfield and cincinnati and dayton. more problems since 2010. regulators investigating whether the rate that establishes municipal bond prices is susceptible to manipulation. that's just, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, those are 11 examples, all of them huge separately and in the aggregate
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devastating, potentially, certainly to many individuals and potentially devastating in a huge way to our economy as a whole. madam president, the list goes on and on and on. but some experts say we can't -- when you talk about potentially these banks forcing them to divest themselves because of their size, some experts say our banks need to compete. no, no, our banks need to compete with the banks in other countries. but then does anyone really believe, do any of these bankers on wall street or bankers in my state who have acted flannels more responsibly and the community banks and the credit unions and the regional banks, does anybody really believe we should follow the european model where bank bailouts have become the norm? we know the world's largest bank at $2.55 billion, hsbc
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laundered money for mexican drug traffickers and middle eastern terrorists. and the eighth largest bank in the world at $2.4 trillion, barclay's in the city where the olympics are held, the first bank caught, the first bank caught manipulating the libor rate. not exactly models that we should emulate. financial reform is supposed to reduce industry concentration, it's supposed to end too big to fail, but the financial sector is even more concentrated now than it was before the financial crisis and you remember what i said at the outset, in 1995, 18% of g.d.p., the assets of these banks, the largest banks, six largest banks was 18% of g.d.p. in 1995. by 2009 it it was 68% and it's n worse today. the top tennessee banks assets 68% in 2006, now 77% at the end of 2010 and growing presumably.
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as a result of mergers during the financial crisis, three of the four largest banks have grown by an average of $500 billion. they're in the vicinity of $800 billion and a trillion dollars and a trillion and a half and $2 trillion in assets. the six biggest u.s. banks have combined assets twice as large as the rest of the top 50 u.s. banks put together. think about that again. the largest six u.s. banks, their assets, total this, the 50 next largest u.s. banks, big banks to be sure, hundreds of millions -- billions in assets, total less than the six largest. according to robert wilmers, the six biggest banks in the united states account forward 3535% of all deposits, 35% of deposits, 53% of banking assets, 56% of all mortgages and 93% -- 93% -- of trading
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revenues. this is just six banks who wield such immense power in our economy. the message to the markets is clear. these trillion-dollar megabanks, they're too big to manage, too big to regulate, and they continue to be too big to fail. we have work to do. for all of its benefits, dodd-frank's benefits including a consumer protection agency and the oversight of derivatives, dodd-frank reliedz lies upon regulators to get it right this time. but -- but given their track record, too close to those who they regula, sometimes there just aren't enough of them. other times they may not have the expertise to be able to chase around some of the smartest, best educated, most experienced banking executives who know how to game the system. and also we don't -- and these regulators simply -- we don't always, as i said, have enough of them. that's why i'm skeptical. that's why we need to go beyond
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the central provisions of dodd-frank that increase capital, that establish living wills, that establish a process for orderly liquidation. those are all good things, but clearly, clearly -- i just mentioned these 10 or 11 or 12 problems -- those are just the biggest ones -- clearly that's not enough. members of congress in both political parties agree banks need to have more, much more capital to cover their losses, much more of a financial capital cushion. we agree that institutions should issue more stocks, should restrict dividends, should retain their earnings to build bigger buffers. but while countries like switzerland are considering 19% capital requirements, a ratio of about 5-1, u.s. regulators are staying within the basal 3 international capital standards which fdic director tom hoenig has said simply will not prevent another financial crisis. there's also a living will process that's intended to make it easier to resolve large, complex institutions -- we talked a lot about that on dodd-frank -- institutions are
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supposed to tell regulators how they can be dismantled to protect the financial system as a whole and protect middle america when they get into financial trouble. but the proof will be in the results. so far, regulators have yet to begin a process of simplifying the six largest banks that have a combined 14,420 subsidiaries. six banks have 14,420 subsidiaries. i -- i mention that number because, madam president, as you think about every look at these six banks, every quantifying number that i try to give, eve every -- every observation of these six banks, every delineation of what these six banks do and -- and what they are, this speaks of -- bespeaks of this huge, this behemoth that is too big -- are too big to fail, these six banks, they're till big to regulate -- they're too big to manage and they're too big to regulate. and there's title 2, orderly liquidation authorities. i've heard my colleagues, including my ranking member on
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my subcommittee, senator corker from tennessee, who coauthored title 2, note that fdic and treasury could keep failing banks on life support rather than liquidate them. is that what we really want when we think too big to fail, too big to manage, too big to regulate? i've talked to regulators who tell -- tell -- who have privately told me and told graham steele on my staff that they believe our banks are still too big to be allowed to fail because the collapse of banks that size potentially could crush the economy. we remember the fear in the voices of some of the top people in the bush administration when they talked to us in the fall of 2008 about what was happening to our financial system. i don't think we've answered those fears nearly well enough. this is not capitalism the way it should be. it's not right. some of my colleagues think the answer to too big to fail requires repeal of dodd-frank. this is about as silly as it gets. in a return to the -- and a return to the same unfettered free market approach that alan
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greenspan championed for decades and that has led us into this mess. except alan greenspan doesn't think we should even have that again, even though he was number-one cheerleader, he and the "wall street journal" editorial page for unfettered, egg rig late wall street. he has, to his credit -- and i don't give them credit for much in much of the last ten years -- but to his credit, he has acknowledged that yes, indeed, he was wrong, that this unfettered, unregulated wall street capitalism simply didn't work for our country. he acknowledges doing that again would be a recipe for financial crises and bailouts as far as the eye can see. instead, we must face the reality that too big to fail is simply too big. we must enact the safe banking act because too big to fail and too big to manage and too big to regulate have become the norm, especially among these large six behemoth institutions. safe banking act, my legislation, would place reasonable limits on the share of deposits and the volatile nondeposit liabilities that any
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one institution can take on. it would require the largest companies -- largest financial companies to fund themselves with more of their own shareholder's equity and less leverage. it would put an end to the government's implicit and explicit support for megabanks, specifically the six largest wall street institutions. that, madam president, as i spelled out earlier, are in a class by themselves. remember those numbers. the six largest banks, 35% of all deposits, 53% of all u.s. banking assets, 56% of all mortgages, 93% of trading revenues. those -- that six institutions that have that kind of power in the economic marketplace in large part because of actions here. our legislation would put an e end -- our -- and under our legislation, regulators and banking leaders in support of our legislation are increasingly voicing support for this bill. former federal reserve chairman
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paul volcker recently said that the j.p. morgan episode might be an illustration that these banks are too big to manage. former fdic chairman sheila bare says that shareholders and regulators could force banks to break up but this legislation would be the more direct -- most direct way to do it. richard fisher, president of the fed of dallas, jaimed bullard, president of the ned st. louis agree that more needs to be done to address the problem of too-big-to-fail banks. last week the architect of to the-big-to-fail banking model, former citigroup c.e.o. sandy wile, said that biggest banks should be broken up. increasingly, this isn't a partisan issue. the ranking member of the banking committee, republican senator shelby from alabama, supported the safe banking act when it was a floor amendment -- when it was the brown-kaufman floor amendment. i've heard from more and more of my colleagues on both side of the aisle that they might have voted against it a couple years ago as a floor amendment but things have gotten worse. the idea is sounding better and
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better to them. this legislation would protect taxpayers by putting megabank shareholders on the hook for losses, ending bailouts for good. at a time of increasing fiscal restraint, our -- constraint, our nation can ill afford to waste precious taxpayer dollars bailing out our largest banks and their recklessness. my legislation would benefit the community banks that are at an unfair competitive disadvantage because megabanks have access to cheaper funding based upon the perception that the government stands behind them. that means studies estimate this support gives megabanks a 70% to 80% -- 80-point funding advantage. 70-80 basis points means three-fourths, four-fifths of a percent on interest advantage, if you will, a subsidy provided by -- a subsidy encouraged -- provided, for that matter -- by the expectation of taxpayer support of up to $60 billion per year. so if you're one of the six big banks, you can borrow money in capital markets at a lower cost
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than if you're a community bank in keri, ohio, or community bank in sandusky or a mid-sized bank in columbus or akron, ohio. because the market knows that we won't let those six biggest banks fail so their interest -- their lending is a little less expensive because there's a lot less risk. my legislation benefits investors. as many experts agree that the sum of the parts of the largest megabanks is more valuable than the banks as a whole. so when they begin, under our legislation, these six megaban megabanks, assets from $800 billion to $2.2 trillion, when they begin to divest themselves, there's a reasonably good chance that they will be worth more in the aggregate that they were in the -- than they were in the whole t. will benefit wall street -- whole. it will benefit wall street families -- it will benefit main street families and businesses because increased competition will result in better prices and fraud to be punished with the full force of the law. just about the only people who will not been from it from --
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benefit from my plan are a few wall street executives who, frankly, have done just fine the last ten years. we simply cannot wait any longer for regulators to act. wall street's been allowed to run wild for years. their watchdogs are either not up to the job or in some cases complicit in their activities. how many more scandals will it take before we acknowledge that we can't rely on regulators to prevent subprime lending and dangerous derivatives and risky proprietary trading and even fraud and manipulation? even if they wanted to do the job -- and i think they do, the regulators -- it would require 70,000 examiners to examine a trillion-dollar bank with the same level of scrutiny as a community bank. so the regulation -- the regulation of the community banks is plenty but when it comes to the six largest banks, we're not even close. again, they're too big to fail, they're too big to manage -- look at what's happened, those examples i gave -- and they're too big to regulate. it's simply -- we can't rely on the market to fix itself. the six largest wall street megabanks are essentially an
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alagopoly and a cartel making true competition impossible. megabank share exphoarldz creditors have no incentive to end too big to fail because they get paid out when banks are bailed out. they get paid out when banks are bailed out. and banking laws prevent meaningful management shakeup because any hostile takeover effort would require federal preserve approval. that's why it's time for congress to act in the interest of the american public. it's time to restore the public's confidence in our financial markets. it's not there now, to be sure. it's time to put an end to wall street welfare and government subsidies. we've seen far too much of that. it's time to enact, madam president, the safe banking act. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i see the senator from north dakota on the floor and wonder if he seeks recognition, as my chairman on
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the budget committee, i'm inclined to give him precedence. mr. conrad: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. conrad: through the chair, i would say to my colleague that i do have a matter that's a parliamentary inquiry, that is a matter that is important for us to resolve. i don't know -- i don't want to intrude on the senator's time if he's -- mr. whitehouse: may i suggest, if i may, madam president, that the senator proceed and it would be helpful to me if he could give me an indication first of how long it might be and, second, that we enter into a unanimous consent that i be recognized following his remarks. mr. conrad: no more than four minutes. mr. whitehouse: perfect. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from north dakota. mr. conrad: madam president, i come to the floor today to clear up some confusion with respect to the budget control act of 2011. some have suggested that the
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budget control act indirectly authorized the senate to use a fast-track process to modify the across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect next year due to failure of the joint select committee on deficit reduction. madam president, if that claim were true, it would result in a fundamental change in senate procedures and prerogatives. however, it is clear in looking at both the statutory language and congress's intent in passing the budget control act that this claim is completely without merit. first, let's look at what the law actually says. the key provision at issue is section 258-a of the deficit control act of 1985. section 258-a would allow the majority leader to introduce a joint resolution to modify or provide an alternative to a
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sequestration order, quote -- and i quote -- "issued under section 254. " that joint resolution could not be filibustered and would pass the senate with a simple majority vote. the sequestration orders under section 254 were put in place over two decades ago to enforce deficit targets and discretionary spending limits that have long since expired. madam president, a sequestration order under the budget control act is not an order issued under section 254. the budget control act created a new sequestration process under a completely different section of the law, section 251-a. section 251-a explicitly authorized a new set of presidential sequestration
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orders in fiscal year 2013 for both discretionary and direct spending and did so without any reference at all to the old section 258-a procedures. the staff for her language is clear -- the statutory language is clear, therefore, that these old procedures do not apply to sequestration under the budget control act. it's also clear that congress never intended for section 258-a procedures to apply. there was no discussion of this issue on the floor of either house. there was no discussion of this in the budget control act negotiations between congressional republicans and the white house. and there was no discussion of this among democratic senators. moreover, the budget control act and the deficit control act of 1985 are completely separate budget enforcement mechanisms
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enacted 26 years apart and under entirely different circumstances. simply put, madam president, there is zero evidence of any congressional intent to apply the 258 procedures to the budget control act sequestration. in order to confirm this for the record, i'd like to pose a parliamentary inquiry to the presiding officer. madam president, is it correct that section 258-a of the deficit control act of 1985 does not apply to the fiscal year 2013 sequestration? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. conrad: i thank the chair. i think that's an important decision to get affirmed publicly so that we might proceed and not be engaged in distractions. i thank the chair and yield the floor, and i thank very much my colleague for allowing me to proceed. mr. whitehouse: my great pleasure. madam chair? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island.
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mr. whitehouse: thank you, madam president. kathy hutchison last spring picked up a couple of -- cup of coffee and took a sip. now, why have i come to the floor of the united states senate to talk about kathy hutch inson last spring picking up a cup of coffee and taking a sip? because 15 years earlier, kathy hutchinson was working in her garden when she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed. kathy didn't just lose the ability to use her arms and legs. she also lost the ability to speak. i'm sorry to say that this condition is not unique to kathy. it happens regularly enough that there is a medical term for it.
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locked-in syndrome. and that's how kathy lived for nearly 15 years. alert and mentally sharp but unable to move or speak, a prisoner in her own body. all of this changed last spring when for the first time in nearly 15 years kathy picked up that cup of coffee and took a sip. kathy hutchinson is a patient enrolled in a clinical trial at brown university in providence, rhode island. they are testing a neural interface device known as brain gate. brain gate works by placing a small censor on the brain. the censor is connected to a computer that interprets the brain's signals to control a specially designed robotic arm. the university researchers asked
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kathy to imagine that she was moving her arm in different directions, and then they monitored which neurons fired for those corresponding movements, all in her imagination. using this brain wave information, researchers attached a robotic arm to the computer, the computer translated the electrical impulses detected by the sensors in kathy's brain back into commands to tell the arm what to do. kathy communicates through a device that allows her to type using the movement of her eyes, and she typed that she was ecstatic about the new technology and hopes it can be
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expanded to one day allow her to walk again. the brain gate team is also working to determine if this technology can ultimately be used to help individuals paralyzed by stroke or injury to regain greater independence. brain gate is an example of what is possible when the best minds in science and engineering come together for the common good. researchers from brown university, the department of veterans affairs, massachusetts general hospital and the german aerospace center collaborated on this project. their efforts were supported by a grant from the national institutes of health as well as funding from the veterans affairs and several -- from the veterans administration and several private foundations. brain gate is just one of the most recent in a long list of medical breakthroughs that are made possible by our national
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institutes of health. the n.i.h. is the cornerstone of our national commitment to medical research for the benefit of humanity. research supported by the n.i.h. has led to medical advance that is have saved and improved countless lives while making america the world leader in discovery and innovation. more than 80 nobel prizes have been awarded for research supported by the national institutes of health. in rhode island, brown university has received n.i.h. grants to support cutting edge research on a multitude of diseases, including cancer, dementia and muscular dystrophy. in fact, the scope of projects at brown that receive n.i.h. support is so diverse that the university describes its n.i.h.-backed research as covering everything from autism to alzheimer's. and yet, there are those in congress who have suggested cutting the n.i.h.'s budget.
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let's be clear about what cutting the n.i.h.'s budget means. it means cutting off funding for research that has provided kathy hutchi nson her first taste of physical independence in 15 years. it means telling the millions of americans suffering from cancer that they have to wait longer for life-saving research. and it means suffocating a vibrant american area of innovation and job creation. cutting the n.i.h. budget has ripple effects far beyond just one federal agency. quite simply, it will hurt job growth. medical research is one of the fastest growing fields nationwide. in rhode island and across the country, cities are undergoing a renaissance sparked by the growth of high-paying careers in medical research. i've heard friends on the other side of the aisle here talk at length about how we need to do more to create jobs.
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well, i could not agree more. now is no time to put jobs at risk by cutting back on the research funding that makes them possible. i know that the appropriations committee recently reported a bill to the floor that would increase the n.i.h. budget by $100 million for the coming fiscal year. i applaud my colleagues on the appropriations committee for their commitment to this vital agency, and i hope that we will soon be able to vote on their measure, but there is something looming on the horizon that will render this $100 million increase all but meaningless. i am talking, of course, about sequestration under which it is estimated that the n.i.h. will face not a $100 million increase but a $2.4 billion cut. i know a lot of my colleagues have discussed the effect that the sequester will have on
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defense spending, but it's important to remember that 50 cents out of every dollar of cuts that will occur under sequestration will come out of nondefense spending, including specifically the n.i.h. devastating is the word that keeps being used when people are asked how sequestration would affect our national institutes of health. that's how n.i.h. director dr. francis collins described the effect of a nearly 8% cut to the agency's budget. those who are familiar with science know how important it is in ongoing experiments that there be a consistent data set through the period of the research. when you interrupt research for financial reasons, you can damage the value of research conducted in other years. i agree with my colleagues that we must reduce our long-term
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deficit, but when we cut funding that creates jobs and leads to life-saving medical breakthroughs, we are pursuing policies that are the epitome of penny wise but pound foolish. i hope we in the senate can work together to find sensible solutions that reduce the deficit while maintaining our long-standing commitment to medical research and innovation. we owe that much to kathy and to the millions of americans whose futures will be brighter next to the research and -- thanks to the research and jobs made possible by our american national institutes of health. when kathy hutchinson interacts with the brain gate program, it is hard not to get the sense that you're looking into the future, a future where people like kathy will know that disease or injury will not transform their bodies into a prison. it was arthur c. clark who said
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that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. for sate, for the brain gate research team and indeed for anyone who may one day benefit from this remarkable technology, that sip of keep last spring taken by kathy hutchinson was a moment of magic. let us commit ourselves to providing kathy, the brain gate team and all of those who are relying on us in this body to provide the support they need to keep making magical moments like this possible. with that, madam president, i yield the floor.
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mr. udall: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. udall: madam president, i am here on the senate floor, as i have been on 14 previous occasions, to urge all of us, to urge my colleagues here in the senate and of course our colleagues down through the rotunda and the house to extend the production tax credit for wind. it's also known by its shorthand as the p.t.c. the reason i'm here on the floor and as i have said many, many times before, this is about jobs. if we don't extend the production tax credit as soon as possible, we will lose good-paying american jobs. it's that simple, it's that straightforward. i am going to keep speaking on the floor of the senate until we, colleagues, decide to act, until congress decides to take the necessary action to extend the production tax credit, protect american jobs.
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i want to underline that. we're going to protect american jobs and help secure our energy future in the 21st century where clean energy will be a dominant part of the mix. madam president, it's been a treat to come to the floor to do this on one hand because i'm touring the country. i focus on a state when i come to the floor. today i want to focus on the great state of oregon where the wind industry is a major part of their economy. and where the p.t.c.'s positive ripple effects have been felt statewide. in short, oregon is a national leader in wind power. i want to share some of the statistics to make the case. according to the american wind energy association, oregon ranks sixth in power derived from wind. the wind energy industry supports roughly 3,000 jobs in oregon, and that number is poised to grow, but only if we
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extend the production tax credit. as you look at the map here of oregon, you can see that oregon has installed extensive wind power projects along the columbia river valley in the northern part of the state. the columbia basically delineates the state of oregon from the state of washington right here along its northern boundary, and there are enough projects that are producing enough power so that 700,000 homes would have electricity from those wind power projects. the bigelow canyon wind farm is the ninth largest wind farm in the nation, and oregon's second congressional district, which is a -- a very big district, much like the western slope district in colorado, the third district, it ranks fourth in the united states for installed wind capacity. and over the last decade, one county alone, a relatively small county here, sherman county, has
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seen over $17 million in revenues come into that county due to the presence, the simple presence of the wind energy industry. and that money has helped sherman county do some impressive things. they have created jobs and improved their infrastructure, including building a new public school and library, supporting the sherman county historical museum and installing solar panels on county property, a nice hybrid system is in place using renewable energy with those solar panels. these are impressive achievements and investments. i think you get where i'm heading here. oregon's wind energy potential is tremendous. currently, there are plans to more than triple the amount of power that oregon gets from wind. that would mean a total of 9,000 megawatts of electricity. that would power over two million homes. and moreover, such a move, such an investment would create
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thousands of jobs. i want to go back to my main point. the wind production tax credit has been a driver, encouraging investment in oregon and the rest of our country. the p.t.c. has encouraged american innovation, innovation is how we're going to grow our economy, and it's supported american companies in the wind energy sector. but interestingly enough, and i know the presiding officer knows this and i look forward to the opportunity to talk about her great state of north carolina in the future -- the p.t.c. has enticed foreign companies to bring their operations and the jobs to the united states. because of the p.t.c., these companies are building factories and offices in the united states. i like to talk about vestis, a danish company, has a significant manufacturing presence in colorado.
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there are four plants. saturday i was at the vestis plant in pueblo. they support many jobs in colorado. but they have a strong presence in oregon as well. in fact, their u.s. headquarters are located in one of the most livable cities in the world, that being portland. they have made a real statement, vestis has about the potential here in the united states. madam president, again, the point i'm making is it's clear to me and a large, growing, and bipartisan group of colleagues in both houses of the congress, including, i should say both of my colleagues from oregon, senators merkley and wyden, extending the production tax credit is the right thing to do, it's the right thing for our future, for our economy, and for our environment. and without the p.t.c., we should look at the other side of this success story. without it, the sustained growth of the wind industry in recent years will slow. there's no doubt about that.
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it already that. possibly halt and we may see good-paying american jobs that will be losto china and other countries. why would we want that to happen? we cannot let that happen. and the continued uncertainty is not right, it's not fair when it comes to our u.s. wind industry, and the people who work in that sector. last saturday i heard from the workers at the vestas plant in pueblo, that they didn't know if they were going to have their jobs in a few months. the looks on their faces alone should motivate all of us to get the wind production tax credit extended. it's also an opportunity for us in the congress to show the american public that we're not as dysfunctional as a congress as the public believes. this is a chance to support economic growth and american manufacturing right here in our country.
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the american people expect us to produce results, and we can only do so by working together. and i fear, madam president, that the wind production tax credit has become a political football. we have a chance to show the american public, who are sick of campaign-year rhetoric and politics and business as usual partisanship that we can rise above it. and i want to reiterate again this is a perfect opportunity for us because this is not a partisan issue. it has widespread support from both parties across our country and i've been highlighting that fact over these last few weeks. so what can we do? we ought to understand that the production tax credit equals jobs. we ought to pass it as soon as possible. madam president, as i wind down, i want to note that the senate finance committee is
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meeting right now to consider a tax extenders package, and i know many of my colleagues on the senate finance committee, including oregon's senior senator, ron wyden, are working to include the p.t.c. in the package. and i want to add my voice to those that are already in place urging the finance committee to pass an extension of the p.t.c. today as a part of the tax extenders package, and then let's move the full senate to the point where we can pass the p.t.c. as soon as possible. why? because we're protecting american jobs and we're setting the ground, we're preparing the ground for additional job creation in this crucial, growing, exciting, 21st century industry, the wind energy industry. madam president, thank you for your interest. thanks for what your great state is doing for wind power. i look forward to talking about
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north carolina in the near term and with that, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: madam president, i'm delighted to follow the distinguished senator from colorado, and commend him for his persistence and his passion on preserving the wind production tax credit. we have -- as he will frrl our previous discussions together on the floor, facilities we hope to have going up offshore of rhode island very soon that will provide a local source of energy for us, reduce our reliance on imported oil and create significant and well-paying jobs at home. so i am glad to be his wingman in this pursuit and thank him for his leadership. on a related subject, yesterday marked the end of what's expected to be one of the top five warmest months on record.
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the usda recently declared nearly 1,400 counties in 31 states, including, i'm sure, many in senator udall's home state of colorado, disaster areas as a result of the ongoing drought. nasa and noaa declared the last decade the warmest on record. in 2011 we faced 14 weather-related disasters that totaled more than a billion dollars in damage each. and we already have several more that have occurred in 2012. so i've come to the floor today to discuss the science of climate change. virtually all respected scientific and academic institutions have agreed that climate change is happening and that human activities are the driving cause of this change. a letter to congress from a great number of those institutions in october, 2009
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stated that -- and i'll -- quote -- quote --" observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. these conclusions are based on multiple, independent lines of evidence and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer reviewed science." contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. if i were to translate that last phrase into layman's terms, it would basically mean if you're saying anything different, we should be looking for your
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motive. this letter was signed by the heads of the following organizations: the american association for the advancement of science, the american chemical society, the geophysical union, the institute of biological sciences, the american meteorologistal society, the society agronomy, the crop science society of america and a great many others. these are highly esteemed scientific organizations, and they don't think the injure is -- jury is still out on climate change. they recognize that in reality, the verdict is in, and it's time be to act -- time to act. over the weekend dr. richard mueller who is a professor of physics at berkeley and a director of the berkeley earth surface tevment project and a former macarthur foundation fellow, revealed in a "new york times" op-ed how he has become a
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converted climate skeptic. he cites findings from his research, which ironically was partially funded by the koch brothers, that the earth's land temperature has increased by two and a half degrees fahrenheit in the last 250 years and one and a half degrees over the past 50 years. he states moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. unfortunately, human emission of greenhouse gases is on the rise. in 2011, the famed mauna loa observatory documented the biggest jump yet in carbon dioxide. a monitoring station in the arctic this year measured carbon dioxide at 400 parts per million for the first time. 50 payroll taxes per million higher than the maximum
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concentration at which scientists predict a stable earth's climate. and, of course, 400 parts per million is way outside the 170 to 300 parts per million brand width that has existed on this planet for the last 8,000 centuries. for 800,000 years we've been between 170 and 300 parts per million and now in the bellwether leading edge arctic area we've cracked 400 and are climbing. a 2012 report by the ipcc concludes this climate change increases the risk of heavy precipitation. rhode island's no stranger to heavy precipitation. in 2010, we saw flooding that exceeded anything we've seen since the 1870's when rhode island started first keeping records. at the height of the rains, streets in many rhode island cities and towns looked more like rivers than roads.
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local emergency workers sailed down providence street, a main road in west warwick, by boat and jet ski, down a main road, on boats and jet skis in order to assist residents frapped trapped by the floodwaters. of course we can't link that exact storm to climate change but we know that climate change is increasing the risk of events like this one. it is loading the dice for more and worse storms. as a new englander, i was concerned by a report released this week by environment america, when it rains it pours. the report found that in new england i quote, "intense reforms and snowstorms are happening 85% more often than in 1848. the frequency of intense rain or snowstorms nearly doubled in vermont and rhode island, and more than doubled in new hampshire." not only are they happening more often but the largest events are
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actually dumping for precipitation. around 10% more on average across the country. for states like mine, these storms are dangerous, are expensive, and cause lasting damage. we are moving down a troublesome and unknown path. the best we can do now is to prepare for dramatic environmental shifts. we must look to science and scientists and use the best available data to protect and prepare both our natural and built environments, environments which sustain us and our economy. ensuring the integrity of our infrastructure in the face of a rapidly changing climate is essential. and i want to focus for a minute on that information -- infrastructure question. coastal states face a particularly unique set of challenges so the infrastructure challenge for rhode island is worse than many places. we face what i call a triple
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whammy as we must adapt not only to extreme temperatures and unusual weather but also to sea level rise. as average global temperature rises, less water is stored in snow pack and on the ice sheets of antarctica and greenland and higher temperatures cause water to expand to greater volume, so that leads to sea level rise predicted to range from 20 to 39 inches by the year 2100 with recent studies showing the numbers could be even higher due to expected melting of glaciers and ice sheets than we're seeing now. this is not a theory, we're into the realm of measurement. in in rhode island, long-term data from tide gauges in the sailing capital of newport show an increased average sea level of nearly 10 inches since 1930. at these same tide gauges, measurements show that the rate of sea level rise has also
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increased in the past two decades compared to the rate over the last century. consistent with reports that since 1990, sea level has been rising faster than the rate predicted by models used to generate the ipcc estimates. sea level rise is one thing. the increase in storm surges that accompany it is even worse and promises to bring devastation to our doorsteps. there is critical infrastructure in yatd risk coastal areas. there are roads, wastewater treatment plans that will need to be reinforced or relocated. our marshes and the barrier islands that act as filtration systems and buffers against storms will be inundated with little time or space to retreat and move inland as they have in the past. the oncoming weather is coming on too fast. erosion rates have doubled from 1990 to 2006.
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some fresh water wetlands near the coast are transitioning to salt marsh. increased erosion puts this critical public infrastructure at risk. in one example we have a small but vibrant coastal community, matunic where beaches have eroded 20 feet. the town has to face difficult decisions as the ronald road -- only road connecting 1,600 businesses and restaurants is protected by less than a dozen feet of sand from the ocean. this road, which provides access for emergency vehicles and lies on top of the water main, must be protected. but what are the costs of protecting this piece of road for areas nearby or further down the shore? often when you protect one area of beach from erosion by hardening or altering the shoreline, you do so at the sacrifice of other areas. and it takes science and data to sort out how to do that right.
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these are not easy decisions for communities. to best protect infrastructure and the communities and families that live in these at-risk areas, we've got to as a nation plan ahead. we have to use the best and most reliable science and we have to be able to prioritize adaptation efforts. in north carolina, the state legislature considered a measure that would have severely restricted the ability of their coastal resource commission to employ scientific estimates of future sea level rise. that is the ultimate case of the ostrich burying its head in the sand, in this case the beach sand. this type of thinking will cost money and lives in the future. i will ask unanimous consent, because i see the chairman of armed services on the floor, to conclude my remarks and have my entire statement added to the record. but let me close by saying that
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it's now well past time for us as a country to start making policy that helps us adapt to the emerging scientific reality that our actions indeed do affect our environment. for those of us who are ocean states, the state of our oceans and coasts is particularly significant, and i urge my colleagues to support our national endowment for the oceans, which got all the way into the conference committee on the highway bill before it was taken out in an unfortunate, unwise, and, frankly, unfair maneuver. we are at a place now where nature could not be giving us clearer warnings. whatever higher power there i is -- and we each have our own beliefs on that -- whatever higher power it is that gave us our advanced human capacity for perception, for calculation, for analysis, for deduction, and for
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foresight, has laid out before us more than enough information for us to make the right decisions. only a wild and reckless greed or a fatal hubris could blind us to the distress signals coming from our oceans, our atmospheres and our world. fortunately, these human capacities still provide us everything we need to act responsibly, but only if we will. i thank the presiding officer. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination. the clerk reports. the clerk: nomination, the judiciary, gershwin a. drain of michigan to be united states district judge. the presiding officer: there will be one hour of debate equally divided. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. a senator: i don't intend to talk about the nomination but i've talked to my friend, the senator from michigan, about this and would ask that my time
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come from the republican time on the nomination discussion. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. blunt: i thank you. i rise today on two topics, madam president. one, i want to say that while i don't agree with everything my good friend from rhode island just said about the issue he was talking about, the two of us have worked all this year to try to bring people together on -- on the issue that we failed to deal with today, on cybersecurity. and senator whitehouse and i along with senator kyl and senator mikulski at the very first of the year began to create opportunities for senators to sit down together and talk about the threat we faced and talk about what we needed to do to -- to deal with this. and i'm convinced -- and i believe all of the people i just mentioned are equally convinced -- that two things will happen. that we will eventually have a cyber attack on our country that will be successful in some way
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that many americans will understand the danger we face from the cyber threat. and, secondly, that we'll eventually pass a bill. and my strong belief is that that will be a better bill if we pass it before that event rather than after that event. as senator mikulski was -- mr. whitehouse: madam president, may i simply interject. if -- with the distinguished senator from missouri's permission, to say how much of a pleasure it has been to work with him on this issue, to say that i think a great number of senators on both sides of the aisle have worked in very good faith to get us to a point where we can pass a bill, and to pledge to him that despite the unfortunate outcome of today's cloture volt vote, i am committed to working with him, with senator kyl, with senator graham, senator mccain, and others, senator chambliss on the other side of the aisle so that we can, indeed, take the necessary steps to protect our
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nation from this threat. but i say this with a strong consciousness of the very goodwill and the very hard work that senator blunt put into this effort and with great appreciation to him personally. i yield the floor. mr. blunt: well, i thank my friend from rhode island, and i think we can move forward. i think there is good faith. as i said, we started, four of us, beginning to get people together. quickly that group was joined by senator collins and senator lieberman. so six of us began to get people together. there were any number of meetings this week that were two dozen senators about equally divided between both parties trying to find a way forward here. i didn't think we had found that in the cloture motion today. the motion said, here's how we're going to proceed to finish this bill and that -- we -- we didn't move forward today but i -- i happy to we can continue to work with -- i hope that we can continue to work with senator reid and others to create the sense that senator whitehouse just expressed, that there is great bipartisan effort being made to
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find a solution that not only would pass the senate bill but would wind up with a bill on the president's desk sometime this year. you don't have to look very far to find people who will say that the greatest threat we face at this moment is the threat of some kind of cyber attack at the highest levels of our military structure, of our intelligence structure. they quickly come to that conclusion. and leaving here for the work period that congress has had since the beginning of congresses in august without having this done on the senate side is disappointing to me. on the other hand, there wouldn't have been a bill even if we would have passed a bill today because we have to work with the house to have a bill that winds up with a piece of paper on the president's desk, a relatively small stack of paper that he can sign that becomes the law that allows ourselves to
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either minimize or hopefully avoid the current certainty that someone will eventually begin to get to our critical infrastructure in a way that makes it hard for the country to -- to get water, to get electricity, to communicate, to address the financial network. you know, three or four days anywhere in the country that the electricity's out and suddenly you begin to see all of the things that are dependent on -- on just the electrical grid. and so hopefully we can do this. i know that work is being done. i'll be involved in some of it later today and i'm disappointed we didn't get this done but it has to be done not just with a -- we can't leave here this year with the house saying we passed a bill and the senate saying either we din pass a bill because we -- we didn't pass a bill because we -- one side didn't want to work with the other or we passed a bill but the senate -- the house wouldn't agree with it. that's not -- this is not a problem that we just need to have a political answer to.
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this is a problem we need to have a real answer to. and what i came to the floor today to talk about was something that we actually managed to get done just a few days ago when the senate passed the house-passed iran threat reduction and syrian human rights act. this is one thing that people who don't agree on much of anything else in the house and senate can figure out how to agree on. this bill, while i think it could have been a little stronger, was still a strong effort to reach a conclusion that hopefully the president will sign as soon as possible and send the right message to iran that even amid our vigorous disagreements on all these other issues, including something as important as cybersecurity, congress stands united against iran developing a nuclear capacity. some of the highlights of the bill, this would create strong
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new measures on any entity that invests in iran's petroleum, petrochemical or natural gas sector. it -- strong measures against any entity that provides goods, services and infrastructure or technology to iran's oil and natural gas. anybody that provides refined petroleum products to iran. you know, iran is such a -- an economic basket case, they have all this oil but they can't produce enough of it -- turn enough of it into gasoline for their own country because of the kind of government that they are suffering under. any country that -- any company or entity that insures or reinsures investments in iran's oil sector, that engages in joint ventures with the national iranian oil company, that provides insurance or reinsurance to the national iranian oil company or the national iranian tanker company,
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that helps iran evade oil sanctions through reflagging or something that makes -- tries to hide the real source of oil coming from iraq. that sells or leases or otherwise provides tankers to iran. i think i said iraq a minute ago and i mean iran in all cases. transports crude oil from iran, concealing the origin of iranian crude in any way. these are -- are -- are good measures that strengthen what we've been doing, and i think what we've been doing's having some impact. i just think we need to have more impact because the result is so unacceptable if iran successfully gets a nuclear weapon. the bill prevents iran from bringing money back when it sells oil in other countries. now, that's 80% of their hard currency comes into the country that way, we would say that
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can't happen. 50% of all the money that runs the government comes in that w way. when the president signs this bill, we're saying this shouldn't be allowed to happen. it also prevents the purchasing of iranian sovereign debt. now, i've been working on this issue a long time. in 2006, i worked with my colleagues in the house and senate and the administration to secure the first iran freedom support act which updated the iran sanctions law and -- and put into law many of the things that we've been doing. this bill, along with that bill, addresses problems that we need to be concerned about as a country. late last year, the senate passed an amendment to the defense bill. 100-0 to block iran's access to global capital markets. foreign banks that do business with iran's banks won't be able to do business with the united states financial system.
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nobody disputes what a nuclear iran would mean to the world. iran is currently led by a man who's called for the destruction of our ally, israel. iran's government funds and supports terrorist organizations and regimes all over the middle east that threaten american allies and interest and american citizens. the iranian regime is dangerous, it's undemocratic, it treats its own people brutally, and it associates itself with other countries that do the same thi thing: north korea, venezuela, syria are allies of iran. what does that tell you? you can sometimes tell a lot by who a country finds the few friends they have left in the world. iran bankroll's hezbollah and has strong financial ties wit with -- iran bankrolls hezbollah and has strong financial ties with iraq. there's no reason to believe that a nuclear iran -- remember, this is a country that can't even produce its own gasoline even though it sends oil out
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every day, it's focusing on -- on nuclear activities when they have so many other needs. there's no reason to believe that a nuclear iran is not a threat to the united states. some of our country -- partners in the country, in to region, like turkey, feel like they have to develop nuclear programs if iran does. the iranian people, many of whom advocate for freedom and demonstrated their bravery in the 2009 uprisings, are not our enemies. this government, however, is our enemies and this government should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. madam president, we're going to have to work together to -- more vigorously persuade countries like russia and china that their ties with iran aren't in the best interest of the world.
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we have to work to encourage our european allies to accept some further risk, frankly, as they also continue on the path they're on to -- to make these sanctions work better. i understand there's some risk here but the senate that doesn't agree on lofts things agrees that -- on lots of things agrees that an unacceptable conclusion to what's going on in iran right now would be a nuclear iran. and i urge the president to sign this bill, to implement the provisions as quickly as possible, and to work with other countries in the world to see that we all advance the interest of peace by insisting that iran not continue on the course it's on. and i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: madam president, i'm very pleased that the senate
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is now taking up the nomination of gershwin drain to be a judge on the eastern district court of michigan. judge drain has an impressive legal career. he graduated from the university of michigan law school and then went on to earn a masters of judicial studies degree in 1991. he has served in our trial courts in michigan for something like 25 years. all three of our trial courts, from the low of the court, which is a so-called district court, to the recorders court and the circuit courts. he has served with distinction in these courts aes a trial judge for over two decades. he's demonstrated a careerlong dedication to helping the people understand how our legal system works. as a longtime columnist for "the
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michigan chronicle" he has explained often complex legal issues, broadening understanding of and appreciation for our courts. beyond his writing, judge drain has been very active in the community, including membership on the education committee of the southfield christian school board. it's important to note that the confirmation of judge drain would help to remedy the judicial emergency in the eastern district of michigan. vacancies and caseloads in the eastern district meet the federal judicial system's definition of an emergency. these judicial emergencies lead to delays and, even worse, to the risk of rush to judgments that could deprive americans of the impartial justice that is so much a necessary component of our democratic system of government.
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judge drain was asked about some of his past writings and statements during his confirmation hearing at the judiciary committee on such issues as capital punishment and mandatory minimum sentences. he indicated that some of those views -- some of them decades ago, as a matter of fact -- have evolved. he was candid in saying where they have changed. i don't agree with everything that judge drain said 20 years ago, but, nonetheless, without the slightest hesitancy, senator stabenow and i have recommended him to be a judge on the eastern district court for michigan. the test of his fairness has been shown by the fact that he has served with distinction for over two decades on trial courts. another test of his fairness is how the legal community feels about judge drain.
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senator stabenow and i have appointed a judicial advisory commission to make recommendations to us for the judicial positions that we have on the federal district court. his nomination was the result of an examination by, consideration of a whole large number -- a host of people who are interested in being federal court judges in the eastern district. his competition was great. there are literally dozens of qualified people who we considered and more accurately our judicial advisory commission considered to recommend to thes are for nomination. -- to the president for nomination. he was one of the persons who they recommended. this is a commission that we have appointed in order to try to remove the nominees that we recommend to the president -- at least the persons we recommend
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to the president for nomination -- to remove them as much as we can from partisan politics and to put them instead under consideration to be a judge with great objectivity. we have a broadly based commission, and i think the best test of his fairness and his objectivity and his inability to judge people and not based on anything other than the merits of the case in front of him is testimony -- has testified more than anything to by the fact that the commission, the broadly based judicial advisory commission, recommended his nomination to us as one of the people to be considered, and we recommended him to the president. the american bar association has also spoken on this issue. he has been recommended
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unanimously as "qualified" for the federal bench by the anding committee on the federal judiciary of the american bar association. so we're in a position here where we have a judicial emergency on the eastern district court. we have a situation where the delays which result deprive americans of what they are entitled to. we have a nominee who's been recommended by a broadly based commission, which senator stabenow and i have appointed. he's been given a numerating of "qualified -- he's been given a unanimous rating of "qualified." he said and he believes and he has shown in practice that -- quote -- "my personal beliefs, both past and present, have no
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bearing on the decisions that i make in court." the notion, he said, that he would place his own personal judgment in place of the law is contradicted by not just his testimony, but it's by a record of decisions that indicate that he abides by the concept of a judge as an impartial arbiter. so senator stabenow understand a i strongly urge our -- so senator stabenow and i strongly urge our colleagues to confirm judge drain. we hope that can happen in the next hour. in the absence of anyone else seeking recognition, i yield the floor and ask that the time between now and the time for voting be equally divided between the majority and minority. i believe that is the standard practice here that we divide the time. and i make that request. the presiding officer: a quorum call will be divided.
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the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: nor senator madamr. lautenberg:m president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. lautenberg: i thank you, madam president. and i ask unanimous consent -- i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the roll call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lautenberg: madam president, i rise today out of disbelief with rhetoric coming
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from the republicans and their presidential candidate concerning the u.s. relationship with israel. and, frankly, it pains me to see that a political trip to israel has carried with it a message that wants to scare the israelis that president obama and this administration is not as fast and as complete as it is. it pains me. i've had numerous trips to israel. one of them was 1967. it was the six-day war when the israelis had battled with the
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egyptians, and i got there shortly after the guns stopped shooting, and i went to the sinai desert, and i watched the israelis on guard while the egyptian soldiers were carrying necessary items like water and food for their beaten troops. and i was reminded then that the israelis are -- always have to be on guard; they are never free to go about their domestic interests and problems without having one eye open to make certain that the rockets that are being thrown at them these days aren't going to tear their people apart again, as the people have experienced.
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the worst human relationship. the human treatment of other humans was a blight on mankind that can never be forgotten, and i israelis remember it very, very clearly. unfortunately, the republicans want to use our relationship with israel as a political game, which is terrible for american national security and bad for israel. the implication that we are weak in our support for israel is foul play and encourages israe israel's enemies to look and say, well, maybe america is not as solid on its support of israel because mr. romney said,
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when asked a question about what he would do differently with israel is just the opposite of what president obama has done. we built a relationship between our country firm and unshakable since 1948. to try and clumsily interfere with that is shameful. republicans are distorting the state of th u.s.-israel relatios and sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. when you listen to the republicans and especially their candidate mitt romney, distortion is replaced with --
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when we examine the record it is clear that president obama shares my convictions about the enduring bond between israel and the united states. it's clear that there is no greater friend to israel than this president. but you don't have to take any word for it. -- but you don't have to take my word for it. here is a chart and it carries a message from ehud barak, the israeli defense minister. he says very clearly, "this administration under president obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that i can remember in the past." the distinguished general in the israeli army, israeli defense
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minister, he made certain that it's quite understood that the relationship with israel and america is solid and well-balanced. this is coming, as i say, from a distinguished decorated military leader. he helped plan the historic raid on the israelis who were taken in agrounded airplane. he understands israel's securi security, and the israeli prime minister binyamin netanyahu has called the obama administratio administration's security policy for israel "unprecedented." but if you listen to republicans over here in the u.s., they say we've all but abandoned israel's
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security. they're encouraging hostile neighbors with their misrepresentation. shame on them. governor romney, in particular, has demonstrated frightening ignorance about israel and its security needs. a prime example of this behavior, as i earlier mentioned, is the republican presidential nominees complete inability to articulate what exactly he would do differently than president obama when asked about what his policy regarding israel would be. and i have to quote him here. he said "i'd look at the things the president has done and do the opposite." what a threatening statement that is. he said he wants to do the opposite of president obama. so let's look at what that would really mean.
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obama blacked palestinian -- obama blocked palestinian statehood when it was brought up in the u.n. he had a big fight on his hands to keep that from happening. so that means that romney as president would allow palestinian statehood in the u.n. he said he's going to do the opposite. record high u.s. aid for israel. he's going to do the opposite, that means he's got to lower u.s. aid for israel. obama, all options on the table for dealing with iran are there. that means that mitt romney if president would use containment of nuclear iran as his yardstick for dealing with this incredible
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problem. and so, everybody beware, israelis beware. don't be taken in by this and don't let people in america be taken in by this. they know that israel is america's best friend. last september when the palestinian authority aggressively pursued a u.n. vote for a vote on statehood, that's when president obama stood strong and blocked it. and if we are to believe mitt romney, however, as indicated here, he would have allowed this unilateral action on palestinian statehood to proceed. just a few days ago president obama signed into law a new bill that will strengthen u.s. security with israel even
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further. but again, if we're to believe mitt romney, he would have lowered israeli aid and weakened thusly israel's defenses against the threat that it constantly faces. and lastly, president obama has stood absolutely firm in his call to stop iran from developing a nuclear weapon. the obama administration has been clear that all options are on the table to prevent iran from becoming a nuclear threat to its neighbors. and president obama has put in place the strongest sanctions ever against iran, sanctions that if punished and isolated iran more than ever before. and if we're to believe mitt romney here as well, under president romney, america's policy toward iran would be one
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of of accepting a nuclear armed iran that threatens israel's and the world's very existence. madam president, the bottom line is this, these aren't simple problems and they'll require real leadership to tackle them. and we can't play games with israel's best friend. israel continues to be threatened by rockets launched by hamas from the gaza strip. iran appears intent on developing a nuclear weapon and is the foremost state sponsor of terror. but instead of approaching these issues with careful -- with a careful consideration they deserve, the republicans seem intent on twisting reality for political gain. and we see it on the domestic front too. the republican leader has said -- he said it here -- his party's top priority is to make
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president obama a one-term president. and they're using any pretense that they can establish. their top priorities then clearly don't include helping americans, everyday americans by creating jobs, improving our schools or strengthening our health care system. and if we take mitt romney's word for it, they're certainly not doing what is in israel's best interest. because when they simply wish for our president's failure, they're hurting america's chance for success. and when they fail to put forth any ideas of their own, madam president, they show themselves to be unfit to govern, unable to lead. their mission, their primary mission is bring down the record that president obama has established. watt recapture -- with the
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recapture of loss of jobs, still we've got a long way to go, and to get our economy better, better in motion than it is, everybody knows we're working on it. we've seen remarkable growth of jobs in the automobile industry which looked like it may end up being unable to function in this country of ours. and so the whole world knows that america's leadership depends on its domestic strength and not casual political rhetoric that challenges americans' loyalty to its friends. i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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ms. stabenow: madam president, i would ask suspension of the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from michigan is recognized. ms. stabenow: thank you, madam president. i rise today to strongly urge my colleagues to support the nomination of an outstanding judge, gershwin drain, to the united states district court for the eastern district of michigan. we'll have an opportunity to
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vote in a few minutes, and senator levin and i join together in the strongest possible recommendation to our colleagues on this nomination. i have known judge drain for many years. i can tell you he's a very impressive individual with a long record of excellent public service. he has served in the district court, detroit recorder's court and the wayne county circuit court. he's active in the community. when i am in the community and have the opportunity to be at events that are important for people, for families, for communities, for children, for economic development, judge drain is always there supporting the efforts of detroit and of michigan. he's of course dedicated to his
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incredible family, who i know is very, very proud of him, as we are. but don't take my word for it. the american bar association standing committee on the federal judiciary unanimously rated judge drain qualified to serve on the district court. he was named -- quote -- "a man of excellence" by the michigan chronicle newspaper. and the detroit news named him michiganian of the year, distinguished recognition in michigan. this is a judgeship that has been vacant for more than two years. it's important for people in michigan and throughout the eastern district to be able to have the full measure of justice that they expect and deserve when coming before the court. it is very, very important that we fill this vacancy.
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i'm appreciative and proud that the president of the united states has nominated him. i appreciate the support of the judiciary committee in bringing this nomination forward and the agreement to allow us to vote on this nominee. judge drain has the qualifications, the experience and the temperament for this very, very important position, and i would strongly urge my colleagues to support his nomination and to vote "yes" when it comes before us in the next few minutes. thank you, madam president. and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. levin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: madam president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. the question is on the nomination. mr. levin: and i would ask for
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the yeas and nays, madam president. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, on this, the yeas are 55, the nays are 41. the nomination is confirmed. the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: i ask unanimous consent that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, that the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate resume legislative session. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. ms. stabenow: and i would suggest the absence of absence. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, h.r. 9956 having been received from the house of representatives and its text being identical to the section of s. 3326, the senate will proceed to the immediate consideration of the measure which the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 5986, and act to amend the african growth act and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the clerk will read the measure forbe the third time. the clerk: h.r. 5986, and act to amend the african growth and opportunity act to extend the third-country fabric program and so forth and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the bill is passed. ms. stabenow: mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent proceedings under the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection, they are suspended. mr. mccain: mr. president, at this late of our session until september i think it's important that we continue to pay
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attention to and be concerned about the situation in syria. today kofi annan, the former secretary general of the united nations, announced the failure of his mission. if there's anything about the conflict in syria that did not surprise most of us, it was the fact that kofi annan's mission was a failure. it was doomed to failure from the beginning. it was based on the premise that somehow bashar assad would be motivated to stopping the massacre of his people. it was motivated on the premise that somehow u.n. observers could come in and stand between the two fighting forces and totally ignored the fundamentals of this conflict. the fundamentals of this conflict are simple. it is the syrian people attempting to assert their god-given rights and throw off
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the yoke of a brutal and unconscionable dictator. and on the other side of the equation, bashar assad's commitment to doing whatever is necessary, including massacring now as many as 20,000 of his own people in his desperate quest to remain in power in syria. let's not forget that one of the reasons why we have seen heavy russian involvement in the form of supplies of arms and equipment, continued russian veto of resolutions in the u.n. security council that would have even imposed even the mildest sanctions on bashar assad is that what seems to be some kind
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of nostalgia on president putin's part for the old russian empire in the maintenance of their one base on the mediterranean port in syria, the russian' behavior in this throughout is they continue to block one resolution after another, of course is revealing of the true nature of the putin regime. the autocracy and kleptocracy that has now asserted its full power and weight in russia. in addition to that, of course, we have the chinese joining russia in their sustaining of vetoes in the u.n. security council. it's hard to oversaeut -- overstate the damage that these
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actions by russia and china have done to them, but it's also hard to overstate the damage that's been done to the syrian people. russian equipment being supplied constantly, iranian boots on the ground, helping to set up torture centers, and continued encouragement of bashar assad to remain in power. and i'm not here to again critique this administration's abysmal record, but isn't it ludicrous -- isn't it ludicrous to base your entire policy towards syria on the belief that somehow the russians would convince bashar assad that he should leave syria? isn't it foolish to somehow base your policy and nonintervention
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on the belief that somehow a former secretary general of the united nations' mission would succeed when it was clear that the syrian people were not going to be satisfied with the continuous barbarous regime of bashar assad, and certainly bashar assad was not going to give up. it's clear through iran's actions that its rulers are playing for keeps in syria, and they will stop at nothing to prevent the fall of bashar assad. why are the iranians so committed and involved? in the words of general maddis, the commander of u.s. central command, described before the
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armed services committee that the tpaufp -- fall of bashar assad would be the greatest blow to iran in more than 25 years. in fact, bashar assad falls, syria loses its position as far as lebanon is concerned. the lebanese people have an opportunity to lose their client status of syria, and hezbollah absorbs a serious blow because they lose their patron in syria. so the fall of bashar assad not only is a victory for the force of democracy and freedom, but it would also mean a significant -- a significant -- advance in our interests in the region as our major concern today remains the iranian continued development of
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nuclear weapons, the path that we're on. but sooner or later may provoke an attack by either israel and/or the united states of america. i say that with some authority because the president of the united states, president obama, has appropriately said if a that it would be unacceptable for iran to acquire nuclear weapons. i've been, along with my friend joe lieberman, to a refugee camp in turkey on the syrian border. there have now been thousands and thousands of additional residents there who have had to flee the brutality of bashar assad inside syria. i met young men who were freshly wounded. i met defectors from the syrian army who described how they were instructed -- they were instructed and indoctrinated to
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rape, to murder, and to torture. i met individuals who have watched their children murdered before their very eyes. and i met a group of young women who had been gang raped. i wish every american could have had that opportunity to see these people whose only -- only reason, only reason they rose up is because they wanted to achieve their god-given rights. so what's going on now in syria is very important because the longer the conflict drags out, the more jihaddists and foreign fighters and extremists come into the fight. every day that goes by that al-assad is in power is another day which will make it more difficult once he leaves -- and he will leave, but the question
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is when, how difficult it will be for syria to knit their country back together and become a functioning democracy. there is also a very serious issue of chemical weapons. it is well known and for the first time recently the syrian government acknowledged that they have stores of chemical weapons. these chemical weapons pose a great threat in a very unstable region. there are various scenarios that we should be deeply concerned about. one of them is that if syrian -- if chemical weapons fall into the hands or shift to hezbollah, what kind of a threat does that pose to israel? i remind my colleagues that hezbollah has committed to the extinction of the state of israel, as has iran. so what happens with these
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chemical weapons is a very, very important issue, and the more chaos and the more disorder and the more frustration and anger that is displayed on both sides, the more likely it is that these chemical weapons can fall into the wrong hands. and they are not located in one place. so there is a great deal at stake here, and there is one thing that i hope we all could agree on, and that is the longer it lasts, the greater the danger, the more killings, the more rapes, the more murders. and today we have information that the president of the united states has made a decision to in some ways -- and i'm not sure of the details because i only know media reports, the decision has
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been made to -- i guess the best way to describe it as i understand it is facilitate the flow of weapons to the syrian resistance fighters. i don't know how that's done. i don't know how it's accomplished, but i do know this. that they also need a sanctuary, they need a safe area that can -- that is secure the same way the libyans needed bengazi, so they can train, equip and establish a government. the resistance, as we all know, is fractured, and the best way to join them together is to have a central council that they can answer to and that can make sure the weapons go to the right place. that is a vital component that should happen sooner rather than later. i know that the american people are -- and by the way, none of us, none of us seek to put american boots on the ground for
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a whole lot of reasons. i know that the american people are war weary and focused on our own domestic challenges. both of these sentiments are genuine and legitimate. but what has unfolded in syria over the past year and a half not only offends the conscience of our country, it also poses real and growing risk to our national security interests and those to some of our closest allies. i don't believe that bashir assad can last, even under current conditions. but i do know for sure, america's national security interests in syria will remain long after assad's fall, and in many ways, they could become more precarious because of our inaction, because of the president of the united states' failure to speak up for these people. why doesn't the president of the united states speak up for them? i've never understood that.
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because of our inaction, the people who will inherit the country in syria will remember that in their hour of greatest need, when the bravest among them were fighting and dying for their freedom in a grossly unfair fight, america stood idly by and refused to help. as the sister of a fallen opposition fighter in syria recently remarked -- quote -- "when we control syria, we won't forget that you forgot about us. millions of her fellow syrians share that sentiment. if we continue on this path of inaction, mass atrocities will continue to unfold in aleppo and other places in syria. we have the power to prevent this needless death and advance our strategic interests in the middle east at the same time. if we don't, if we don't, if we
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continue this shameful behavior, our failure of leadership will haunt us for a long period to come. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i hope that many of my colleagues in returning to their home states for the august recess may have an opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony. i do so regularly when i go home during the -- the july fourth break. i had the wonderful opportunity to attend several. these ceremonies can occur in courthouses or in town halls involving newly made citizens. they swear the oath and they are accompanied by families friends. it is a uniquely joyous and proud day in their lives. many have waited years to become united states citizens, and they do so not only willingly but joyfully.
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and there are tears in many of their eyes and there are tears in my eyes as well because it recalls for me the day many, many years ago, decades ago, when i first attended such a ceremony which in turn recalls for me the stories of my own relatives who came to this country from other shores, and so did many of the parents or grandparents or forebears of we who serve in this body. the meaning of citizenship of the united states, the value of those rights that come with citizenship, are often forgotten or unappreciated by many of us who have been born in this country and sometimes, unfortunately, take for granted the tremendous value placed on
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those rights and liberties by people who come to the united states. today i want to talk about people who come to the united states or more precisely, are brought to the united states as young people, as infants, or children. many under four or five years old and this country becomes the only one they have known. the history of this country is their history. they may not even know the language of the country from which they came. and the language of this country is the only one that they know, and may have no memories or scant recollections of the countries where they were born. these young people are here, and they have been brought here
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perhaps by parents who came illegally, but they are here through no fault of their own. and many of them have achieved remarkably and have contributed extraordinarily, and their promise of future achievement is staggering. extraordinarily impressive. their contribution to the lives of their communities, to teaching or giving back to our communities, their contributions in terms of scientific or literary accomplishment. one such young person is miller gold medals -- miller goams. i'm going to tell his story much as senator durbin as said on the floor of the chamber in his steadfast advocacy of a measure
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call the dream act and i want to follow him in engaging this chamber in this effort. i want to thank dreegs distinguished colleagues like senator durbin who have been tireless advocates for the passage of the dream act. the dream act, called by its full name, development relief and education for alien minors, should be a top priority for this congress. states like connecticut have passed their versions of it, but a national and uniform effort is essential, and much as we hope and i support that we will have comprehensive immigration law reform, i also believe the dream act is an idea whose time has more than come,
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and we should be adopting it as soon as possible in this chamber to provide the kind of certainty and promise that is so important to young people like miller gomes. miller gomes was brought to this country from brazil when he was five years old. he came with a tourist visa in 1995, the visa expired a year later in 1996 so he has been here without proper documentation since then. he has been through the bridgeport public schools, central high school in bridge point and then he went to fairfield university. miller gomes is this young man at his graduation from fairfield university. his graduation tsunamia cum laude. he was a -- summa cum laude, he won the american chemical society outstanding senior
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chemistry award, and he has been accepted at the university of california berkeley's physical chemistry ph.d. program. all that he lacked was a student visa to pursue his studies at u.c. berkeley. he lacks a student visa, and if he returns to brazil to seek one, he will be denied it because he has been undocumented in this country. if there were ever a catch-22, miller gomes is its poster child under our current immigration law. and so that student visa under current law will be denied him. fortunately, the obama administration on june 15,
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2012, made a very strong statement of support for young men and women like miller gomes and issued a regulation or a directive that will permit him to remain in this country. that directive is lacking in a number of respects cpared to the dream act. it will be temporary only for a couple of years, it is not a path to citizenship as the dream act would provide, it does not make him eligible for the kind of financial aid that he would need, and most important, it requires him to go through the stress and uncertainty of applying again for deferred action. it is only a deferral of deportation. and so the dream act remains a
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vitally important measure for literally thousands of young people. between 11,000 and 20,000 young people living in connecticut who would benefit from the dream act, and two million young people nationwide. under the dream act, they would comply with rigorous standards and requirements for lack of criminal record, criminal history, and they would in effect be provided this pathway to citizenship because of their promise and their potential for contributing to this country. in miller gomes' case, the potential for contributing to this country as a scientist who would make new discoveries, perhaps breakthrough discoveries that would benefit the entire country, and we laud young people like him who are
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motivated and smart and dedicated to this country. i am committed to comprehensive immigration reform achieved through bipartisan congressional action. that ought to be one of our immediate goals here. so that young people like miller gomes brought to this country as children through no fault of their own will have the opportunity to contribute to this nation and be part of their communities as the dream act would provide and as comprehensive immigration reform would also achievñ but in the meantime, let us pass the dream act so that these dreamers, like miller gomes, will have the basic guarantees and certainty that they can remain in this country and that the promise of the greatest nation in the history of the world will be theirs, truly and
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irrevocably. theirs regardless of religion or race or gender or any of the arbitrary labels that we say consistently and constantly should have no place in our judgments about human beings. our nation will be better because miller gomes will be with us. and our nation would be better still if the millions like him have the security and certainty of a path towards citizenship, a path that will benefit them and benefit the greatest anything in the history of the world. thank you, madam president, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. mr. blumenthal: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: i ask unanimous consent that the calling of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: madam president, first let me express my disappointment that today our colleagues on the other side of the aisle blocked
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consideration of vitally important cybersecurity legislation. when the secretary of defense, when asked about the potential threat to the united states, suggests, in fact, declares emphatically that his biggest concern is that the next pearl harbor will be a cyber attack on the u.s. and we cannot at least procedurally proceed to the bill, amend the bill and pass the bill, that, i think, is not performing up to the expectations of the american people. i so i am very disappointed that we were not able to complete this legislation in a timely fashion this week and give necessary tools to our national leadership to protect the country against potential cyber threats. having said that, i also want to rise today particularly and
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especially to express my profound disappointment with the federal housing finance agency's decision to prohibit the use of principal reduction by fannie mae and freddie mac as one more tool to avoid foreclosure under the hamp principal reduction alternative. as conservator, the acting f.h.a. director, mr. demarco, has a duty not only to carry on the business of both fannie mae and freddie mac but also to preserve and conserve the assets of both, which fhfa has repeatedly stated requires them to minimize losses. but at the same time, he has other statutory responsibiliti responsibilities. under section 110 of the emergency economic stabilization act, there is a requirement that fhfa -- quote -- "implements a plan that seeks to maximize assistance for homeowners and use its authority to encourage the services of the underlying mortgages and considering net present value to the taxpayer to
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take advantage of available programs to minimize foreclosure." so there's a clear statutory direction to do all that he can to minimize foreclosures while he's also balancing the portfolio and minimizing losses to fannie and freddie. so to boil all of this down, fhfa has to minimize fannie and freddie losses, and pursuant to the emergency economic stabilization act, which, by the way, passed this chamber on a strong bipartisan vote of 74-2 74-25 -- so this injunction to protect the foreclosed homes or people with the threat of foreclosure is a strongly bipartisan objective -- fhfa was directed by congress to throw its weight in favor, i believe, of avoiding disclosure, especially in those instances which a policy decision may be a close call. i believe that's the plain meaning of "maximize assistance to minimize foreclosure."
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"maximize assistance," not provide assistance but to "maximize assistance to avoid fliewsh." and avoid foreclosure." and i would further note that section 110 of the emergency stabilization act explicitly permits reduction of loan principal. so we consciously gave the acting director the specific tool of principal reduction, the specific directive to maximize assistance to minimize foreclosure. we did that in the context of his overall mission to try to minimize losses to fannie and freddie portfolio but to turn essentially a blind eye to the thousands of americans who are facing foreclosure or underwater -- they may be current with their mortgage but they're facing foreclosure -- is, i think, to ignore a vital responsibility and a vital authority which he has been given. after reading fhfa's july 31,
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2012, letter to members of congress, my impression that fhfa has done exactly the opposite of what we have asked them to do. indeed, the letter contradicts itself in arriving at its conclusion. fhfa states in one part of the letter that it won't allow principal reductions under the p.r.a. program, but in another part of the letter, fhfa then goes on to write -- quote -- "short sales and deeds in lieu which the per surprises offer -- "fannie and freddie -- "result in principal forgiveness as part of exiting the house." in other words, it seems in their view principal reduction is acceptable in some cases, especially if the owners leave their home. now, i think there are thousands of americans who are facing huge challenges of staying in their home and it is more than ironic that if you're going to lose
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your home, we'll reduce the principal. but if it allows you to keep your home, then we won't do it. in the same letter, fhfa also states that -- quote -- "forgiving debt owed pursuant to a lawful, valid contract risks creating a longer-term view by investors that the mortgage contract is less secure than ever before. longer-term this view could lead to higher mortgage rates, a constriction of mortgage lending, both outcomes that would be inconsistent with fhfa's mandate to promote stability and liquidity in mortgage markets and access to mortgaged credit." so forgiving debt is inconsistent with fhfa's mandate but fhfa as mits to permitting prince -- admits to permitting principal forgiveness in certain cases. again, let me repeat their own words. "short sales and deeds in lieu, which the enterprises offer, result in principal forgiveness as part of exiting the house. but fhfa also states -- quote -- "forgiving debt owed pursuant to a lawful, valid contract risks
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creating a longer-term view by investors that the mortgage contract is less secure than ever before." well, how does this make any real common sense? we'll forgive principal if you're going to get kicked out of your house, which presumably upsets the long-term perspective of investors and bonds that support those mortgages. but if you're staying in your house and you need to benefit from historically low interest rates, which the banks are, we won't let you, we won't reduce principal. turning to the point of michael jordan hazard, which is implicit in all that's been discussed by f.h.a., and given that fhfa has blessed principal forgiveness in these two instnsz,? authority sales and deeds in lieu, and in addition permits principal reduction as part of the fund which also uses treasury incentives, i can only assume that fhfa must have found a way to control and avoid moral
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hazard when they want to and use it as an excuse when they don't want to do something. either it's a constant issue that must be consistently defended, which they don't do, or is a post part after the fact rationalization for failing to pursue a policy which for other reasons they don't want to do. now, having made these points, let me give fhfa a bit of the benefit of the doubt here and assume for the sake of argument f.h.a. wants greater certainty assurances. i think they said as much when they wrote in a letter, "f.h.a. weighed these potential benefits and costs, recognized the inherent uncertainties associated with these estimates and concluded that the potential benefit was too small and uncertain relative to known and unknown costs and risks to warrant the additional of additional taxpayer resources of fannie mae and freddie mac to
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implement hamp p.r.a. now, that's interesting and i often hear our republican colleagues talk about what fannie and freddie and the private sector should be doing, the hardheaded people who protect their shareholders, et cetera. and in fact i think that is a pretty good place to look for some direction. but what is the private sector doing what it comes t to princil reduction? for example, someone specializing in mortgage-backed securities who performs data-extensive studies to keep their clients informed of critical trends in the mortgage-backed securities market testified before the senate banking committee that principal reductions are, in her words, the most effective type
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of modification. next, john diorio of first alliance lending, whose clients consist of major banks, investment banks and sophisticated parties has stated his client believe it is in their best financial interest to do so. in other words, there is a very strong business case for principal reduction. a business argument apparently that f.h.a. has ignored or totally rejected. mrs. feinstein:ally when we loomrs.reject -- finally, reductions have been granted on 28.9% of loans held. by the way, they also have a lower default rate than fannie may and freddie mac. when you look at the private sector, what they're doing appears to be quite different
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and indeed perhaps the opposite of what f.h.a. is doing. they are going through their portfolios and reducing principal. not because they want to provide charity, not because they are insensitive to moral hazard but because it is the best way to preserve their portfolio and generate shareholder value for their shareholders. that's what they're this the business of doing. they have a fiduciary duty to do that. so it would appear that the private sector seems not only completely comfortable with principal reduction, but they in fact will doing it because it is good for their bottom line. and yet we have f.h.a. essentially saying, well, we can't do it. it's so unbusiness-like. it won't preserve our portfolio. it doesn't make sense, et cetera. i think this is one of those examples where they just don't get it, frankly. now, if a principal reduction
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provides greater value than foreclosure toward private investors, and on top of that -- on top of that keeps a family in a home, aren't these the types of decisions that we should make and we should support? the real moral hazard is that f.h.a. is choosing not to use every available tool, especially one that the private sector is already using extensively. again, time and time again, we hear people in this chamber on both sides of the aisle say we've got to run this government like a business. well, guess what? the businesses are using principal reduction. and f.h.a. is saying, we can't do that. this is shortsighted, it's wrong, i urge the fhfa to reconsider and in the meantime i will continue my efforts to help these homeowners that are facing
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foreclosure. it is very difficult -- and i look at my colleague from new hampshire, my colleague from utah -- to go back home and see a homeowner who is struggling with a mortgage that might be 5% or 6%, knowing that we are fun funding major financial institutions at close to 1% in terms of interest, and they can't get access to a better mortgage rate. because they can't have their principal written down. so i hope that we do adopt some businesses practices here and f.h.a. leads the way and i'm going to do all i can to ensure that outcome becomes a reality. i would make up my colleague from utah for his consideration in letting me speak. thank you. mr. hatch: thank you. madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: thank my colleague. he is always gracious, a very fine man and i enjoy serving with him very much. i was really disappointed that
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the cybersecurity bill had to be -- that it -- that we couldn't proceed with it today. this side had to vote against cloture, and the reason was because the senate is not being open anymore. it is not some itty-bitty bill. most bills are not that there are brought to the floor. i think if it were the other way around and the republicans were in the majority and they started doing what we've been going through lately, i don't blame senator reid for this. i know that it comes from his caucus. but if we were pulling the same type of thing, i got to tell you, the democrats would be
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upset because usually in the senate you never build a procedural pyramid until after there's been a reasonable time for debate and open amendments. and that's the way it's usually done. in recent months -- frankly, the last few years -- they call up a bill, file cloture as though we're filibustering, when we're not, and then tie up the parliamentary tree so you can't have amendments in the greatest deliberative body in the world, supposedly. and that's been very irritating to a lot of people on our side. i would just caution my friends on the other side, this is getting to the point where it's become ago matter of great concern to everybody and irritation torch as well. and i think we ought to get back to being the senate that we all know works better if we respect both sides and our ability to be able to come up and say what we need to and bring the amendments up that we feel are good
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amendments. amendments. be that as it may, that's the way it is right now. we have to do this cybersecurity bill. everybody knows that. the fact that cloture was not invoked does not mean that we shouldn't return to that bill and put the time into it and make sure that we resolve the conbe flicts that are -- that have arisen, some of which are very, very important suggestions. and allow the type of proceeding that really the senate has always been known for until recent years. i'd like to change the subject. madam president, recently there's been some commentary about the lack of substance in our political debates. this concern that washington has failed to confront our deepest political challenges which are in large part fiscal challenges is not without some marriage penalty tax but i would add one caveat to the this analysis: it is not for lack of trying on the part of republicans to have a grown-up debate about our nation's fiscal and economic future.
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republicans are putting forward real ideas about tax reform and entitlement reform with real numbers attached. but i would submit that only one side has put a team on the field for this debate. when 2 come it comes to puttingd solutions to our nearly $16 trillion in debt and our archaic tax code, the president and his democratic allies have largely stayed on the sideline. instead of bringing up proposals to bring down the debt which has ballooned, they have determined to give the american people talkingpoints that attack the wealthy and successful small businesses in the name of equality. given the physical s&l cliff -- fiscal cliff threatening america's families and businesses, this policy to put politics above solutions is madness. the president and his liberal allies are not able to put forward serious solutions because they are between a rock
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and a hard place. the rock is their base, a liberal minority that refuses any meaningful reforms of the spendings programs that are bankrupting our country. the hard place is the vast majority of the american people who flatly object to the massive tax increases, and especially those 940,000 small businesses that would be hit the harder. -- that would be hit the hardest. and of course those massive tax increases would be required to finance on a permanent basis the president's commitment to larger government. the bottom line is that the president is unable to come clean. he cannot tell the american people what the true tax bill would be for his expansion of government. he suggests that our books can be balanced just by taxing the rich. we all know that's poppycock. hence his commitment to the buffett tax and other redistributionist schemes that
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have been pursued by the senate's democratic leadership over the past two years, as though they're really serious. give me a break. but no serious person believes that the obama administration's government can be financed simply by going after the so-called wealthy. the only way to do it is by going after all americans and raising taxes on all citizens. that is the silent plan that the president will not discuss on the campaign trail. that is the democrats' phantom bucket, and that is what i want to discuss today. when it comes to addressing our deficits and debt, only one party in washington has been willing to put its cards on the table. only one party has been willing to acknowledge the difficult choices that have to be made. the other side has refused to provide any concrete solutions of their own while demonizing anyone who has had the democrat merit to propose anything
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resembling a workable solution. a case in point: it has been more than three years -- three years -- since the senate, which has been under democratic control the entire time -- passed a democratic resolution. budget resolutions are mandatory and yet they just ignore it. three years -- three years without a budget. four years ago if someone wrote a novel or a screenplay about a senate majority that refused to pass a budget for three years, people in both parties would have laughed and called it absurd. yet here we are three years later. in fact, the only budget proposals from the democrats have come from the white house, and they have been anything but serious. according to the c.b.o., the president's most recent budget would keep the u.s. on the same unsustainable path with an ever-widening gap between revenues and spending varying from 8.7% to 2.5% of g.d.p., and
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average 3.2% of g.d.p. now, keep this in mind, when you hear the president and his allies suggest that we can get our debt under control, simply by raising taxes on the wealthy. the president raises plenty of taxes on upper-income individuals and small businesses in his bucket, yet under the president's budget, debt held by the public would still reach 76.3% of g.d.p. by the end of the budget window. now, even the president's budget, which raises taxes significantly, comes in with a debt level that is well above what leading economists such as kenneth rogoff and carmen reinhart consider the danger zone of 70%. the president declared his biggest gail failing over the last three years was that he just cared too darn much about
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policy. if only that was true. the fact is he ignores the policy experts and their warnings when it comes to the debt. consider what c.b.o. director elmendorf wrote to house budget committee chairman paul ryan regarding the debt earlier this year. i have to say, mr. elmendorf is a democrat. but i found him to be extremely trustworthy and honest. heress's what he wrote. "budgetary policy affect the economy in a variety of ways. all else being equal, scenarios with higher debt tend to imply lower output and income in the long run than do scenarios with lower debt because increased government borrowing generally crowds out private investment and productive capital, leading to a smaller stock of capital than would otherwise be the case." now, director elmendorf continues. "moreover, that same crowding out leads to increases in
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interest rates, raising the government's interest payments, and therefore further boosting government deficits and debt. the perpetually risings past debt relative to g.d.p. is unsustainable." that's what our c.b.o. director, a democrat, actually says. again, i'll sroefp for the fact that -- i'll sroefp for the fact that he's a very good economist who, as far as i've seen over all these years i've worked with him and watched him help our committees is totally honest. no one can legitimately dispute that our entitlement programs -- medicare, medicaid and social security in particular -- are the major forces driving our future national debt. no one can dispute that. this chart shows the cannibalization of the budget.
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if we go with the status quo of health care entitlements, look at this blue line. health care spending. under the questioning by members of congress, leading obama administration economic policy officials such as treasury secretary geithner basically demur dealing with runaway entitlement spending. and you can see it's running away. in february, secretary geithner identified house republicans that the administration was putting forth no plan to reform entitlements than, as he said, we know we don't like yours, in quotes. the only official proposals we received from the president and his administration would simply maintain the status quo, a status quo that is so unacceptable that not one member of the house or senate supported the president's budget. not one in either body. so what proposals do senate
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democrats support? now keep in mind this blue line is the health care spending line. it shows social security which is relatively flat. that goes up a little bit. but that's the social security line. the green line happens to be discretionary spending which has gradually come down, or will come down from 2012 right here, going up to 2052 according to to what we're trying to do. other mandatory programs are pretty much even, but health care spending is running out of control. that's medicaid, medicare and all other health care spending, but especially medicaid and medicare. well, what proposals do the senate democrats support? on that, they'd prefer to keep the american people guessing. perhaps the president will keep the american people in the dark until he possibly gets -- quote
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-- "more flexibility" democrats have not been willing to put their vision down on paper. by comparison, there's the budget put forward by paul ryan. unlike the democrats who are hiding the ball from the american people, republicans have not been afraid to talk about the ryan budget. this is the ryan -- this is comparison of budgets. the ryan budget constrains federal spending and keeps it close to its historic average of 21% of g.d.p. here is the house ryan budget in the red. by exercising that spending discipline, the budget pulls the deficit down to 1.7% of g.d.p. by comparison, president obama's budget deficits are at 3.2% of
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g.d.p. on average, nearly double those of the ryan budget. when you boil it down, there's a 3.5 trillion dollars more in deficit spending, or should i say in deficit reduction in the ryan budget here than in the president's budget represented by the blue line. $3.5 trillion difference between these two. now that's how much the federal government currently spends in one year. because of the president's failure to tackle runaway entitlement spending, that yawning fiscal gap between the two plans only gets much bigger in the out years. as you can see right here, look at how health care spending is going up in these out years from 2012 all the way to 2052. as you can see, it's constantly
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going up from 2012. whether we are debating the budget or debt ceiling or tax-mageddon, one thing is clear. the president and democrats in congress do not like to talk in specific numbers. instead they want the american people to measure specific republican alternatives like the ryan plan against a series of campaign speeches and attack ads. the current fiscal debate is between the ryan budget and the phantom democratic budget. apparently the chicago campaign sharpies have determined that it is safe tore wait until after the election to finally unveil the details of the phantom budget which just in health care spending is going to go forever up and eat our country alive. and their advice has been heeded
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by the democrats. if your proposals are never written down, no one can check your math. we do not know the actual fiscal position of my friends on the other side of the aisle, but we can fill in some blanks. we know by their vicious attacks on the spending restraints in the ryan budget and other republican proposals that the president and his allies in congress have no interest. zero. no interest in reducing spending. we know their income tax proposals do not add up to much in terms of pref knew, even if -- revenue, even if they let the entirety of it expire, there probably is not enough money to be found in the income tax to pay for the coming explosion in entitlement spending. and you can see it right there just in health care alone. so where does the democrats'
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phantom budget find the fiscal juice to fill its structural hole? the answer is simple. a european-style value-added tax, the v.a.t., or its green cousin, a carbon tax. i'm quite certain that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will write this off as fearmongering and fabrication, but what other conclusions are left to draw? without significant reductions in spending or reforms in our entitlement system, neither of which we can expect from this president or the democrats currently in congress, there is just not enough money to be found in traditional revenue. in traditional revenue streams to cover the president's spending bill. a vat, value added tax or some
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yew -- euphemised. many democrats added support for value-added tax in the past. on 2009 in an appearance on the charlie rose show, then-house speaker nancy pelosi said a vat was on the table. a year later president obama expressed a willingness to consider a vat to address the deficit. countless high-profile democratic strategists and advisorses, people like john podesta and paul volcker have unapologetically suggested implementing a vat in the u.s. ezra klein, a writer with a cache among liberal democrats expressed similar views in "the
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washington post" in 2009. here's a revealing quote from ezra klein's article -- quote -- "tax rates will rise over the next decade. at some point taxes have to come further into line with spending, and that means the direction they will travel is up. but" and this isn't a fact -- "they won't rise within the current system. people don't trust the current system. it feels opaque and unfair, largely because it is. an increase in revenues will have to come alongside a change in the tax system, and the change in the tax system that most economists prefer and that most other countries use is a value-added tax." now, i agree with mr. klein that our current tax system is a mess. while he and other liberals see that as an opportunity to seek larger pots of tax revenue
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elsewhere, my fellow republicans and i see it as a call to reform the tax code. and we disagree on the fundamental assumption behind mr. klein's arguments. like most of my friends on the other side, mr. klein thinks at face value the benefits of future spending. that is how he uses the phrase taxes will have to come further into line within spending. now, his focus is almost entirely on the revenue side with only a passing reverence to the possibility of -- reference to the possibility of reducing spending. a srad would effectively be -- a vat would be a tax hike on every american including those who pay no income tax. excuse me. if a vat were imposed on top of our existing income tax system, it would likely cripple our
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economy by imposing new costs on virtually every p-fp -- purchase of goods and services in the u.s. it would hamper manufacturing. most of all it would be the most regressive tax imposed on the american people disproportionately affecting families with lower incomes who spend a higher percentage of their wages on necessities. simply put, a v.a.t. would be bad policy in a strong economy. but in the midst of a slow economic recovery, it would be tantamount to economic suicide. it would be jet fuel for larger and larger government. numerous studies including a 2010 study by former c.b.o. director douglas holz eakin have demonstrated that in virtually every instance the implementation of a v.a.t. inexorably led to increased spending and expansion of government.
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make no mistake, the current administration and my democrat friends know only one way of engaging in fiscal reform: broaden the base. and every middle-income family in america should know that they will get hit with higher taxes to pay for the democrat goal of ever-kpapbgd government control -- expanding government control over our economy, over our lives and over your paychecks. the contention that implementing a v.a.t. would make our government more fiscally responsible is a dog that just won't hunt. the purpose of a v.a.t. would not be to shore up deficits and pay down debts but to expand the government into new areas backed by an all new source of funding. once again i'm quite certain that virtually all of my democratic colleagues would publicly deny that their phantom budget includes a v.a.t. for now they want us to ignore the v.a.t. behind the curtain and listen as the great and powerful oz proclaims every
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government program can be funded and every budget balanced by eliminating the so-called tax cuts for the rich. but the american people are not so easily duped, and they are showing up at emerald city looking for real leadership and real answers, not just talking points. that, mr. president, is the real choice facing the american people today. they can choose the fiscal leadership of those like chairman ryan, who have put forth actual real-world proposals to bring about reasonable restraints on entitlement spending and maintain taxation at historic levels. or they can choose the president's impersonation of fiscal leadership which is built on a phantom budget and large scale attacks on anyone like chairman ryan who offers a real verifiable alternative. let's be clear, the phantom budget simply cannot translate into reality without collecting
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taxes that go far beyond those the president and congressional democrats publicly support. given the limitations on existing revenue streams, a value-added tax, even with all of its many drawbacks, is one of few logical alternatives left to the other side. if they do not plan on instituting a v.a.t., they need to come clean with the american people and let everyone know how they plan to pay for their outside spending. mr. president, regardless of who wins this election, congress will have to do more than click its heels and wish for enough money to pay for all our bills. therefore, i think it's fair to assume that in lieu of a line-item for ruby slippers, the democrats' phantom budget includes levels and forms of taxation heretofore unseen in the united states. you can be sure that if it is not a v.a.t., it will be something equally damaging to our economy.
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let me just end with just one other thought, and that is that we all know, according to the joint committee on taxation, of which i'm a member, but it it is a nonpartisan committee run by very good economists, that the bottom 51% of all households -- not just people -- all households do not pay a dime of income tax. now, we brought that about out of compassion for them, i have to say, but it means the other 49% are paying for just about everything. well, my friend, treasury secretary geithner pointed out, but yes, they pay payroll taxes. well, we all do that. that's social security. they don't pay a dime of income taxes. i was quick to point out to mr. geithner that 23 million of them, approximately, get
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refundable tax credits from the government that's more than they pay in payroll taxes, so they are really not paying payroll taxes. almost 16 million of them get refundable tax credits from all of us others out there, from the government itself that is more than they and their employers pay in payroll taxes. the fact of the matter is that i don't fail to understand why my friends on the other side are looking for ways to spread the base to an unsuspecting 51% that currently don't pay any real income taxes. i think there have to be better ways of spreading the base than doing it through a vat which in europe has proven to be a ready way for politicians to increase spending over and over without really any inhibitions or any real inhibitions.
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so what i'm talking about today is prophetic. it means without question that our friends on the other side want to keep spending. they want the federal government to keep growing, all at the cost to individuals, and they want to do it because that's what has kept them in power all these years, taking all of your money out there and claiming that they are compassionate with your money when they are unwilling to be compassionate enough to keep living within our means. mr. chairman, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. con. res. 56, submitted earlier today.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate concurrent resolution 56, providing for a conditional adjournment or recess of the senate and an adjournment of the house of representatives. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the concurrent resolution be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate and any statements relating to the matter be placed in the record as if read. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. 3510 introduced earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: s. 3510, a bill to be prevent harm to the national security or endangering the military officers and civilian employees to whom internet
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publication of certain information applies, and for other purposes. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table and that any statements relating to the bill appear at this point in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to ten minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, it's been two years since congress passed legislation that provided for transparency in the mineral industry. it was a provision that was included in the dodd-frank bill. it was included in an amendment that senator lugar and i worked on. i want to thank senator lugar for his incredible leadership on this issue, transparency, as
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well as so many issues that affect the security of not only america but global security. this was a provision that we had worked on to provide transparency in countries in transition. it provided a visible sign of u.s. leadership that we were going to do everything we could to improve good governance around the world, that we understand that for the stability of america, that we needed countries that had good governance. the united states spends more than any other country in the world on our national security budget. in fact, we spend more than the -- most of the other worlds combined spend on national defense. we have the ability to use our military for our national defense but it's much better if we can develop stable countries around the world. the way to develop stable countries is to help build a stable economy, to help build
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wealth and to have good governance. it is impossible to see the type of progress that we want in these countries unless they have good governance. and i might tell you the more that we can help in this regard, the more we have good governance, the more we have economic growth in other countries, not only is it less on our direct security burdens but it also presents for us new markets and economic opportunities for america. as the presiding officer knows, this is the guiding principle of the organization for the security and cooperation of europe. we used the helsinki commission as our implementing arm. the helsinki accords that were signed in 1975 between europe, all the countries of europe, the united states and canada recognized that it was in our national security interest to prevail of stable countries that respected human rights and had good governance. and this is the reason why the
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cardin-lugar amendment was so important in the dodd-frank legislation. let me explain what it did. it requires mineral companies to list their contracts on extraction, on the minerals that they take out of a country, whether it's gas, whether it's oil, whether it's diamonds, whether it's copper, that they list their individual contracts in foreign countries in their listing with the securities and exchange commission. now, we did that for many reasons. one reason, quite frankly, is that although many countries of the world have vast sums of mineral wealth, these are some of the poorest countries in the world. we call it the mineral curse because the wealth of the country is not only being denied to the people for their economic growth, it's being used to fuel corruption within their own
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country. so one of the reasons for the provision that we passed was to provide transparency so that the people of the country, the international community knew exactly where the payments were being made for the extraction of mineral wealth in a country. we thought that was also important for u.s. investors. if you are going to invest in a mineral company, you have the right to know where their contracts are being signed and where they are paying money. it's also important for u.s. interests. we need stable mineral reserves. as you know, we have gone to war over the need for oil. we need to know and have stable markets so that we don't jeopardize our own economic progress. this gives us a chance also to follow the money so that we know where the money in fact is going in a particular country. for all of those reasons, we
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passed in the dodd-frank legislation a provision that requires every company, every company that's involved in extractive minerals to list those contracts specifically by project in their securities and exchange commission's filings. it was pretty clear as to what needed to be done. we gave the authority to the s.e.c. to issue the necessary regulations. well, we have been waiting two years for these regulations, two years. we are now well beyond the limits that was spelled out in the legislation for the s.e.c. to issue its regulations, and yet they still have not issued their final regulations. now, i must tell you, i have read the statute over and over again. i helped write the statute. senator lugar has read the statute. we don't understand the
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difficulty here. it wasn't a complicated law. it said exactly what the companies had to do. so we are what puzzled that it's taken this length of time for the s.e.c. to issue its final regulations. in the meantime, we're being denied the benefit of this law, we're being denied the opportunity of protecting our investors, we're being denied the opportunity of following the money to help develop good governance. all that has been delayed as a result of the s.e.c.'s failure to issue regulations. i must tell you it also jeopardizes u.s. leadership. yes, there are other countries interested in following what the united states is doing. we've heard from europe, we've heard from asia. they want to adopt similar laws. they don't know what to pass because they are still waiting for the s.e.c. to act. so the failure to act is not only affecting our ability but it's affecting other countries
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and collectively between asia, europe and the united states, we can pretty much cover all of the international extractive companies and therefore have a real major impact on transparency of this issue. i might say, one of the reasons that i've heard about why we have a separate bill when we have what's known as the eiti. that's the extractive industries transparency initiative. it's an international organization which is voluntary, countries can join. the united states has participated in the eiti. they help countries with best practices for developing the governance to deal with how they handle their mineral wealth. eiti is an important program. it's a voluntary program. it works well. the cardin-lugar provisions of dodd-frank complement the eiti. it works together. it provides between the two, the eiti and our legislation a way that we can really require companies to make the open --
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the information available in an open way. the eiti gives the countries the technical assistance they need in order to manage their mineral wealth in the most effective way for the benefit of their own people, to elevate their wealth and to have more sustainable economies. so this delay has caused a great deal o concern to many of us, and quite frankly -- oxam, for example, has filed suit against the s.e.c. for its failure to issue regulations, and i'm very sympathetic to that lawsuit. well, i just want to inform my families, we have now been told that the s.e.c. will finally issue their regulations on august 22, in just a few weeks. they have formally responded to the oxfam lawsuit, saying they will issue their regulations on august 22.
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i have received a letter from the s.e.c. indicating that they intend to release their findings on august 22. mr. president, it's long overdue. i must tell you i'm looking forward to seeing the regulations from the securities and exchange commission. i just hope that they follow the legislation. it's up to congress to pass the laws, s.e.c. needs to implement the laws under the direction and guidance from congress. we have made it clear that we want openness and transparency. i understand some oil companies may not like that, but they don't write the laws, we do. it's up to the s.e.c. now to come in with regulations to carry out the intent of our law and help us move forward so that the resource wealth of countries in the developing world become a real asset, a real benefit as they develop sustainable economies and good governance,
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which helps global stability and helps the global economy. we'll be watching the s.e.c. i know we'll be in recess during that period of time, but we'll be watching the s.e.c., and i hope that we'll be working together and the united states will continue to exercise its leadership and we'll see other countries follow suit where we really can make a difference in the wealth and growth of countries around the world that for too long have been suffering even though they have a lot of mineral wealth. and with that, mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: request proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. murkowski: a great deal of conversation the past several days regarding cybersecurity. i think there is absolutely no question we would all agree that cybersecurity is a critical issue. i'm sure every member of this body shares the concern that our nation is vulnerable, very vulnerable to cyber attacks and those attacks could have severe economic and national security ramifications. we saw just this week over 180 amendments filed to the cyber legislation. i think it's pretty clear that a lot of us have ideas on how best to protect our critical infrastructure. and i think that's just one of the ropes that i was disappointed that the amendment tree was filled and cloture was
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filed on the cyber measure. that -- i don't think that was the process that we were promised when the senate overwhelmingly agreed to consider the cybersecurity bill and because members were denied the opportunity to have a thoughtful and a complete debate that this very important issue deserves, the cloture vote failed this morning on a bipartisan basis. now, we have heard a lot about the electric grid during this debate and how legislation is needed to protect our nation's transmission system from cyber attack but what has perhaps been missing from this debate and this discussion is a recognition that congress has already moved to protect our grid system. and they did so seven years ago. they enacted the bipartisan energy policy act of 2005. i'm the ranking member on the committee of jurisdiction, and i would just reassure my colleagues that we already
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have -- we already have mandatory cybersecurity standards in place for our electric grid. in the 2005 energy policy act, congress directed the federal energy regulatory commission, the ferc, which is the grid's regulator, congress directed them to set mond tri, enforceable reliability standards including standards for cybersecurity. and because these standards can be very technical, extremely complex, congress decided that he should should be developed through a consensus-driven stakeholder process that is overseen by the electric reliability organization, an organization that we called nerc. and wethought this was so iortat back in 2005 that we even expanded ferc's traditional jurisdiction to include municipal and cooperatively owned utility systems under these grid reliability
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standards. now, it might surprise some to learn that the ferc-nerc man to her cybersecurity regime -- mandatory cybersecurity regime currently regulates over 1,900 different entities and that the electric power sector is already subject to federal penalties, and these penalties are serious, up to a million dollars per day for noncompliance. so there -- there is teeth attached to these standards. in fact, one of our own government entities, the southwestern power administration, was recently fined by the grid regulators for violating two mandatory cyber standards. now, the point here is that the power sector, the electric power sector, and our grid regulators have been working extremely hard these past seven years to develop and to implement these cyber standards. we've already taken substantial measures to safeguard our electric utility systems.
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we've identified our critical assets and established security management controls. risk assessments have been performed. personnel trained. they've established sabotage reporting, mandated disaster covery plans. these are all processes and procedures that have been put in place. now, also might surprise some to learn that the nuclear regulatory commission, the n.r.c., has already taken action to protect the nation's nuclear facilities from cyber attack. the nuclear industry developed a cybersecurity program for critical assets over a decade ago. the n.r.c. now mandates cybersecurity plans for nuclear plants, including the identification of critical cyber assets and required contingency and incident response plans. and failure to comply with the n.r.c.'s cyber requirements also can result in fines and even an
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order to shut down the nuclear reactors. so again, you've got standards that have been put in place with compliance requirements and -- and penalties that are attached for fail tour comply. now, -- penl thinks that are attached for failure to comply. now, one concern was that the cyber bill was brought to the floor via rule 14 and a concern with this was that it would undermine the existing mandatory framework that congress has already established within the electric utility grid. and by establishing a competing regime, even if that regime was truly voluntary, the cybersecurity act that the senate just rejected could duplicate, conflict with and even super see supersede the hak that's already been put in over these past several years to safeguard both our grid and our nuclear facilities. one of the amendments that i had filed to the bill that i had hoped we'd have an opportunity to discuss was a strong savings
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clause, a savings clause that would maintain the mandatory protections that are in place. two competing systems are not workable and could, in fact, make the nation's grid and nuclear facilities even more vulnerable to cyber attack. now, one thing that we've learned in the energy committee in overseeing our mandatory cyber practices is that not everything necessarily needs to rise to the level of a foundational standard. but with cyber threats and vulnerabilities that are constantly emerging and constantly changing, i think the one thing that we would agree is that we always need more information. i think we can also all agree that the federal government needs to form a partnership with the private sector. we -- we share the same goals, government and the private sector share the same goals, to keep our computer systems and our nation safe from cyber intrusions. we need the private companies to be talking with each other and
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with the government about the cyber problems that they face as well as potential strategies and the solutions to combat them. and we also need our government to provide timely and actionable information to the private sector. it's got to go both ways. so as we -- as we go off to our respective states and discuss with our constituents back home the many issue as that are out there, i would encourage members to take a look at -- at what has been introduced by the ranking members, the secure i.t. cyber legislation, take a look at what has been offered as an alternative. it's a commonsense approach to addressing our ever-increasing cyber threats. our bill focuses on four areas that we believe can reach bipartisan support and result in legislation that can get enacted even given the politics of an election year. the four areas that we focus on are information sharing, fsma
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reform, criminal penalties as well as additional research. now, mr. president, i'd like to close with just some observations very quickly about the process. back in 2005, when the senate passed the bipartisan energy policy act, it passed by a considerable margin. it was 85-12. but we spent a full two weeks on the floor considering amendments at that time. we had earlier spent two weeks marking the bill up in committ committee. so what i'd like to leave folks with is -- is just the reminder that process really does matter. that's how strong bipartisan pieces of legislation are enacted. and when you forego that process and you don't do that hard work in committee and send an ever-changing bill directly to the floor via rule 14 and then fill the amendment tree, the legislation just doesn't work, it's bound to fail. and that's what we saw today. a few months ago, i came to the floor to advocate for cyber
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legislation and to express my concern that the all-or-nothing approach to cybersecurity could result in nothing. and after today's vote, that's really where we are, that's what we have. i do remain hopeful that we can find a path forward on the cyber issue that will result in a truly bipartisan and effective, effective piece of legislation that will help our nation's critical infrastructure. with that, mr. president, i see my colleague from louisiana and i will yield the floor. ms. landrieu: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, mr. president. i've come to the floor to speak about education reform. as we leave this chamber, there are over 50 million children headed back to school in the next few weeks. but before i do, i just want to respond just briefly to the senator from alaska in defense
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of our majority leader here. and i look forward to being with my good friend -- and we are dear friends -- i'll be with her in alaska this week as she leads a codel and i'm conducting a field hearing on the coast guard. i was one of the members that voted for cloture for our cyber bill. and as the senator mentioned, from alaska, it is very important for us to take care of this piece of legislation. but i thought it would be warranted to say that the reason the leader had to fill the tree is because the minority leader refused to put amendments on the floor that were relative to the subject at hand. we would have loved to have had a debate on cybersecurity for the last week or two weeks. it's one of the most important issues really pending before the congress and a challenge to our entire country. i just want to make the record
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clear that the only reason that debate did not happen is because the minority insisted on having a debate about all subjects under the sun, specifically health care reform or repeal or modification. health care reform, repeal or modification has nothing to do with cybersecurity. so i hope something doesn't happen in the next 30 days, some disaster, that our nation will not have the apparatus in place or even the plans in place to respond to because the minority just condition get enough voting done on health care. i have to say that there are other issues in this country besides health care. there's tax policy, there's sequestration, they're budgets,
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they're deficits, they're debts, they're education deficits. but all they want to do is talk about health care. so the record should be clear. that is why the leader filled the tree. it's not because he doesn't enjoy hearing debate from the other side or doesn't think it's valuable. he's got to do that because they have decided they're filibustering basically technically every bill that comes to the senate. the second point i want to make it, i'm on the homeland security committee. this cyber bill has been debated and debated and debated, the concepts of it, and even the opposition to the bill, which was driven -- and i say this respectfully -- by senator mccain, who has a different view of the way that the private sector should be treated, is on the committee himself and was very engaged in the debate in the committee. there were amendments in the committee. we would have loved to have continued this process. but as long as the republican
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leadership and the majority of republicans will not stand up and say, okay, let's have a debate on cybersecurity, we'll take -- allow all relevant amendments, which is what the public i think would think is rational, as long as they want to debate aid to pack stoon a cybersecurity bill, repeal of, you know, health care on a cyber bill, tax rates for next year on a cyber bill, we'll never get anywhere. so i just, you know, get so tired of hearing that democrats don't like debates. heck, we talk probably more than they do. we like to talk. there's nothing wrong with that. it's just that the talk needs to be organized in a way that we can work. they have decided they don't want the senate to work and so that's kind of why we are where we are. but i digress. i want to get back to talking about the importance of -- of us being focused, mr. president, at the appropriate time when we
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return and as we come back in the fall and through the next couple of years on -- next couple of months on education excellence, on the challenges that are before our nation. it is something that i've spent a great deal of time working on even before i was a member of this body. and i'm very proud of the bipartisan efforts that have been made. and i've been party to many of those efforts over time. to bring transparency, accountability, to be more result oriented, to not just throw out federal dollars regardless of the result but to really try to hold our states and local -- locals accountable and to encourage them in good ways, in positive ways, using carrots as opposed to sticks, to nudge them in a positive direction. one of the reasons that we do that -- and i could quote
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probably or refer to 25 or 30 reports; i'll just refer to this one because joel klein, one of the most respected americans on this subject, former superintendent of new york schools, was in the capitol earlier this morning and was meeting with many of us. and he and condoleezza rice have just released a report called "u.s. education reform and national security." it is an alarming report because it basically finds some tremendous challenges. it says in some places in this report -- quote -- "education failure" -- he's talking about public k-12 -- "puts the united states' future economic prosperity, global position and physical safety at risk, leaving large swaths of the population unprepared. also threatens to divide
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americans and undermine the country's cohesion, confidence and ability to serve as global leader." it goes on to say, "the united states will not be able to keep pace, much less lead globally, unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long in public education policy in the united states. these are very strong words. it should be very concerning to us to have a democrat, joel klein, progressive and liberal, condoleezza rice, future -- or past secretary of state and current leader in many areas, a very well respected conservative voice in our nation to agree on this conclusion. and so what are we doing here in washington. i hope that question do more to


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